Saturday, February 19, 2011

Possession (2002)

I caught this late at night on cable, and I found myself quite involved in the plot of the movie.  The film is about:

"A pair of literary sleuths unearth the amorous secret of two Victorian poets only to find themselves falling under a passionate spell."

The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Maud Bailey, and Aaron Eckhart as Roland Mitchell who are the two literary sleuths.  Jeremy Northam plays Randolph Henry Ash, and Jennifer Ehle plays Christabel LaMotte who are the two Victorian poets.  There are some really good performances here and the plot is one where we are really interested in finding out about the two poets love affair.  There is deceit, and betrayal in the film, and in a way this propels the story forward.  The director Neil LaBute does an interesting job at tying the two stories together.  Watching Eckart and Paltrow is also very interesting, and I have to say both look stunning when they are on screen.  Both performers give a depth to their characters which make the audience want to follow them on their literary sleuthing.

Of course the performances of both Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, and Lena Headey are also without fault.  The film treats its literary origins with remarkable respect, and does make the viewer long for the days when human expressed themselves in letters.    It is this part of the film where I really thought the film was interesting.  There are scholars who study poets, and writers through their work and their correspondences.  We live in an age where the art of writing has seemingly gone away.  Letters to one another is no longer a sought after commodity.  Instead we write notes that seem to be short and less descriptive in our feelings.  Emails, and instant communications have killed the art of good letter writing, and it seems to be a loss for mankind.  I can still remember a day when a letter would come from a friend or loved one and one would be excited by it.  Now with mass communication being what it is I feel we have lost something in our correspondence with each other.  This film shows us a different era where words had the power to move individuals to do extraordinary things.

The film also is a statement about poets and poetry.  In one scene Echkart's character says that their are no more poets, and in a way he is right.  Not like there was earlier when the written word had more power.  Maybe LaBute wanted us to think about this while the stories played out up on the screen.  It is a mesage that permutates the film.  The film is from the novel by A.S. Byatt, and is executive produced by Barry Levinson

The cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier , and it is beautifully shot.  The production design is stunning and is by Luciana Arrighi.  The film is slow and well paced, and if your not into talky romantic films this film may not be for you, but it does have a good story.  The performances are really good, and it does seem to have a point.  Anyone who loves the written word will love this film.

I was surprised how much I liked it.  I'm not a big fan of Mr. Labute.  His two films which I really despise are In the Company of Men, and Your Friends & Neighbors .  I also did not like his take on the film The Wicker Man.  I mean why mess with a classic, and after seeing LaBute's version you'll appreciate the original so much more.  But that's for another discussion.  To say I was surprised that LaBute directed this is an understatement.  He does the material some justice here, and the film is a really fascinating to look at and the characters are compelling to watch.  All in all if your a die heart romantic you'll love this film.

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