Dublin Dreams Disguised

Albert Nobbs

We are all disguised as ourselves

We are all disguised as ourselves

Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (son of Colombian Magic Realist author Gabriel Garcia Marquez) the extraordinary film Albert Nobbs see Glenn Close play the title role along with an equally impressive performance by Janet McTeer as the mysterious painter Hubert Page. Both Glenn Close and Janet McTeer give startlingly brilliant performances as Nobbs and Page respectively and deservedly garnered a 2012 Oscar nomination for Best Actress for Close and Supporting Actress for McTeer.

The central tenet of Albert Nobbs is that of woman being disguised as men so that they can survive economically in 19th century Ireland and is set in the plush Dublin hotel Morrison’s with Mrs Baker being the hotel owner, played with a dramatic panache by Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine). Nobbs as a waiter has aspirations of owning his own tobacconist shop and when he meets the brash painter Mr Page who show him that despite their disguise, they can achieve their dreams. Mr Page even shares a home with his ‘wife’ Kathleen and shows Nobbs that the possibilities are endlessly disguised.

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At a time when homosexuality was reviled and Oscar Wilde would soon be sentenced to two years hard labour in 1895 for sodomy after the public exposure of his affair with Lord Alfred `Bosie’ Douglas by Bosie’s father the vile Marques of Queensberry as elegantly told in the 1997 film Wilde, Albert Nobbs shows a different side of homosexuality, lesbian women who cannot be themselves financially, sexually and socially especially in 19th century Europe and have to disguise themselves as men in order to survive.

All the extraordinary complex relationships which the Morrison’s Hotel have are gradually revealed as the film progresses and even the one so called traditional relationship between Helen, the Hotel maid played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids are Alright, Jane Eyre) who falls for the charms of the rough boiler maker Joe played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson(Anna Karenina, Savages) is steeped in deceit and disloyalty. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers makes a brief appearance as Viscount Yarrell whose preferences when staying at Morrison’s is for inter leading doors to his male lover in the adjoining suite.

At the centre of Albert Nobbs, director Garcia really emphasizes the plight of women, whether they are abandoned by an ambitious lover after becoming pregnant or having to disguise themselves as men to survive financially in a patriarchal society which stifled any form of female freedom, not to mention lesbian women who have to hide their homosexuality behind a mask of conformity even if that means dressing as a man.

Albert Nobbs is a brilliantly told film featuring a superb performance by the ever versatile Glenn Close (Dangerous Liaisons) as a gaunt and cautious waiter saving up his pennies to one day fulfil his dreams, and how those dreams through a series of events are tragically thwarted leaving a rather unusual scenario by the films close. This is an exceptional and thought-provoking period film, commenting not just on the period of the late 19th century but on the costumes which define the characters and the disguises people hide behind in order to survive and how those disguises define who they are.

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