They might look like strange bedfellows yet offer peculiar similarities
Witty minds in love with language and clarity of thought, if not of purpose
Dilemma : the world invites you to lie/ how to remain honest with oneself
Sense of compromise versus honesty
Longing, desire, ideal
Rainbow of colors and brilliant dialogues: fireworks of words and visual cues
Strong women on a quest, who sacrifice everything they are/have for their passion
Importance of female bonding and loyalty in a male-dominated world
World shaped by conflict between good and evil, notion of Fall and decay
Corruption: physical and moral
The intersection between the personal and the political
Class and gender and race shaping the individual’s journey in his/her current temporal and spatial predicament/”circumstances”, in the vision proposed by Method Acting
How can the individual escape? Avoid the inevitable obstacles and impediments?
What are the options? To retreat to the inner life or get lost in the outer life?
Two possible responses in the face of constraint—both characters exemplifying “the road not taken” in Robert Frost’s simple but suggestive image.
Life as a subtle negotiating play between resistance and surrender.
Resistance under the mask of surrender, surrender under the mask of resistance.
A secret wound triggers their rebellious nature
Balancing strength and vulnerability:
Oppose the world and be forceful
sometimes, be cruel.
Always uncompromising and unflagging
(some of Faulkner’s favorite words come to mind when considering these two unlikely soul mates indeed).
Both women are eventually betrayed by their bodies.
Two tributes to the power and beauty of words—an invitation to utter on/onwards
Calls to reflect on the staging of power/money on screen, and—indirectly perhaps—to consider the subtle interaction between theatre and cinema: the two movies conjure up the theatrical experience through their emphasis on stunning dialogue and careful positioning of bodies on stage/in the (viewing) frame.
Thriller: a chase without the immediate visual gore, the thrill of the words said and uttered in a world where hypocrisy is everybody’s ware.
Exploring the little-known political world of lobbying
Pace: fast and quick, with a theatrical dimension. The body trying to keep up with the mind
The strategic deployment of props and decoys
Deceit as a way of life
Lying as a form of art?
Anticipating the other’s move and script
Giving the cue before any line is uttered
Greed and power
The impact of new technology (eventually, the culprit can be nailed down thanks to the robotic coach roach)
Sense of loyalty to you and others
Inner journey to refocus on the essential: friendship
Unexpected breakthrough of compassion and care. Even mercy and love.
Moments of breakdown
Moral wake-up call when she is asked by the gun lobby to lure female supporters and rally against the Bradley bill.
She first sees the case as an opportunity to fight over people she despises
But the conflict sets off some awareness.
What starts as a personal challenge ends up being a struggle for the collective good.
Words—finally spoken in truth—make the difference.
On the road again? What will she do next?
The way she instrumentalizes everyone and everything inspires both fascination and repulsion. Is there is anything that escapes her scrutiny, or her desire for power?
Tragic character when caught in her own trap.
Finally, when faced with real pain (Esmer) or real loyalty (perhaps even love: Forbe), she breaks apart and makes a statement that has performative power. Her words and her heart finally coincide and cohere. Some harmonious alignment (moral and other) is reached. The crossing of trauma, perhaps?
The script reserves more than a few surprises, with some holes and gaps (we never find out about her childhood history, yet we feel that it is the core of the matter). It invites us to develop interpretative strategies, lobbying in favor of one interpretation or another.
The viewer walks away, feeling somewhat dizzy after having taken the full measure of the corruption, and the full extent of the courage it takes to break the mold.
To keep on interpreting ahead of the next image, maybe?
In the end: an invitation to ponder over the (master) narrative of money in our imagination, and the compelling power of such narrative developments in our literary and filmic/cultural imagination.
The rise and fall of super heroes who know how to pull the right strings
The fascination of belonging to an exclusive network
The comforts of enjoying privileges of a caste or some new form of aristocracy—the oligarchy of super wealth.
The rules of the game, the violence clothed as a witch hunt.
Financial greed as displacement of raw violence.
Class, race, gender.
A QUIET PASSION
The romantic and the gothic
The Brontee sisters, their fiction and transgressive characters hover the American landscape and context.
A Puritan imagination fueled by images of hell, sin and the Fall.
Moral rectitude coupled with the most absurd and fatal contradictions: the question of slavery and its abolition (therefore of its justification or lack thereof).
The fate of women bound to the servitudes of their class and gender.
The privilege of class and race: no income is needed, therefore no necessity to get a job.
Austin’s father pays his way out of the war/ The sense of loyalty to the father.
The mother: a secret garden, the longing for something else, something she might have chosen in another context, in another time.The memory of someone she loves (the 19-year old church singer whose death continues to haunt her).
The power of music and singing to evoke the world of feelings and sensuality (the opera scene: the female singer is frowned upon by Mr. Dickinson and his sister/the younger spectators love it: the box seats division epitomizes some kind of rupture, even fracture).
Desire and longing in a place and time where taboos dominate, where women have to kept in their proper place (ie, no place at all)
A beautiful scene: in the drawing room, the camera goes around the room, disclosing the slow pace of life and its plainness.
An early declaration of independence from the church and anyone who wants to enforce religion over her sense of God.
Rebelling against the institution and its guardian(s), not God Himself.
A series of repartees and witticisms: only way to fight the tasteless world around them?
Colors: in the garden, an unexpected appeal to sensuality and the sensory dimension of life away from a rigid education and societal conventions.
The Civil War: evoked through the number of casualties
Horror to complement the inner terror of a world gone wrong (Emily to her sister Vinnie: “what has happened to the world?”)
Elaborating a poetics of opposition to the brutality of men’s words and ways through apparent surrender
Po-ethical/ethics of care
Transgressive effect of the women’s bonds of affection and disaffection
Virginia Woolf and her distinction between “being” and “non being” in A Sketch of the Past comes to the viewer’s mind.
The most touching moment perhaps: Emily’s vision of a gentleman caller, the unknown but expected partner, the kindred spirit that materializes out of the dreamy and poetic vision. In the semi darkness, a faceless stranger perhaps inhabits our dreams too. The companion longed for, cherished but never retrieved from within the crass concerns of the world, the numbing codes and expectations.
The unsaid longings: Emily’s, her mother’s, her sister’s, her sister-in-law’s—and her brother’s.
Desire tiptoeing in conversations and in verse. Creating hovering tension and thrill. If one could only find it in the room…
World of abdications, adjurations, pledges and disappointments.
Filming: the portrait of a lady, portraits of ladies.
To render the exquisite texture of the material—of the human heart and soul, of the wonderful dresses, of the tender feelings—said and unsaid.
The twilight of long evenings, the bright light of the garden and sun umbrella, the radiance of a good poem in the midst of a trying day and household.
The release of forgiveness—asked and received.
For the viewer: an orgy of words, a debauchery of images, excess beyond lack and restraint. The sheer pleasure of a shower of sounds and alliterations, dialogues that espouse the contours of the poetic frame.
Two movies to inspire women and men.
Two characters that look like strange bedfellows in the Melvillian fashion.
The white whale of a poetics of passion (s)—quiet and not so quiet.
To reflect on our sacrifices and truths—on words as masks or as oracles.
To reflect on our ability to become prophets in our own world, or regress to its base demands of conformism and hypocrisy. And silence.