Posts Tagged ‘Romola Garai’

The Ultimate Social Climber

Becky’s sharp rise to Fame and Fortune

Vanity Fair

William Makepeace Thackeray is best known as the author of the seminal novel about British life during and following the Napoleonic Wars in the wonderfully descriptive, incisive and popular novel Vanity Fair. Published in 1877, the novel remains as relevant today with language and style which is as accessible in the early 21st century as it originally was in the 19th century. Vanity Fair was not a Dickens or an Eliot novel, all social realism and stark morals but light, sharp and ironic with Thackeray weaving a vast plot with a huge collection of characters with flair and dexterity always keeping the reader in his sardonic sights, whilst remaining poignant, acerbic and darkly entertaining.

Vanity Fair follows the fortunes of Becky Sharp, the heroine a governess who becomes an artful social climber and marries into the wealthy Crawley family, illustrating how unscrupulous and brilliantly wicked and willful a heroine can be. The novel is episodic by nature and weaves many tales surrounding Becky’s rise and fall and rise again in the colourful and notorious Regency period in England, when as a nation, the British were establishing themselves as an Imperial power to be reckoned with.

Renowned Indian film director Mira Nair who brought the colourful and joyous Monsoon Wedding to international cinema, was at the helm of the film version of Vanity Fair, featuring the surprising but clever casting of American sweetheart actress and star of Legally Blonde and Cruel Intentions, Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp supported by a vast sea of British actors from Oscar Winner Jim Broadbent to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of The Tudors fame to a lesser known Robert Pattinson, now famous as Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga.

Whilst novel and film are two entirely different mediums both can be appreciated the first being a great social commentary of the emerging British Empire and the film as a sparkling and lavish period tale with exotic settings from Belgium and Bath to Baden-Baden ending with a vibrant colourful elephant ride in India.

Rereading Thackeray’s Vanity Fair certainly reveals how little has changed in high society over the centuries with nations still as obsessed with wealth, pride, status and ambition while stronger individuals take advantage of the weak for the benefit of securing more power and fame.

 

A Lost Chance at Amendment

Atonement

atonement

Joe Wright’s sumptious cinematic version of the acclaimed novel Atonement by Ian McEwan is really worth viewing a second time round…

Having read Atonement in 2007 and waited for the big screen version of the tale about real and imagined crimes, war and the devastation of innocence, I was suitably impressed by Wright’s cinematic version of a complex novel by author McEwan. Only on a second viewing do I fully appreciate the intricate variations of a grand tale about innocence, loss and the absolute devastation of World War II on all nations concerned. With a brilliant screenplay by the masterful Christopher Hampton, who brought us Dangerous Liaisons and the elegant film Carrington about the life of Lytton Strachey, Wright propels the viewer into an elegant scene of the snobbish society of English country life that is soon transformed forever at the approaching threat of war… showing both those that profits off war’s destruction and those that lose everything by the infinite devastation of endless violence.

*****

What makes Wright’s film version so brilliant, is his effective use of water as a motif both for purification and as a form of atonement and cleansing, whether its the illicit sexual encounters of a lazy English sultry summer afternoon or the sponging of blood and grime from the wounded soldiers as they return from the Theatre of war, that was France in 1940.  From the retreat at Dunkirk to the blitz of London and the losses suffered by all, Atonement paints a grim and prophetic picture of a world without order, direction or compassion, where many must suffer for the mistakes of the few. Wright’s cinematic achievement is that wonderfully long tracking shot on the beaches of France as the English forces prepare for an initial retreat, and the wake of devastation left behind, as one of the central characters Robbie turns and survey the catastrophe of confusion and anarchy. A society on the brink of collapse, seemingly without redemption.

Atonement focuses also on conflicting narratives, embellishments and the dangers of an imagination too rampant to remain real, only realised through the loss of innocence and that inexhaustible sense of wasted time. Besides alternative settings of elegance and destruction, are poignant performances by a superb cast that tackle the subject matter with an earnest command of look and suspense. The original score by Dario Marinelli is brilliant and exceptionally evocative, and is in line with similar films about war, love and lost chances in the tradition of The English Patient and The Remains of the Day.

Audiences should watch out for a superb performance by Saoirse Ronan as the precocious and prying Briony Tallis, who sets in motion a series of misguided accusations which can never be rectified. Saoirse Ronan deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her role as the imaginative 13 year old girl, who does not fully grasp the motives or desires of adults, particularly those of her sister Cecilia played by Keira Knightley and Robbie Turner played by James McAvoy.

Ian McEwan’s novel, Atonement is a multi-layed superbly descriptive account of the erosion of social stability in the face of a world inevitably altered by the onset of the most dramatic event in the 20th century…

The novel  is a thought-provoking and intelligent study of English society on the brink of a significant historical turning point, the affects of which still resonate today…

Even if you have seen the film,  the novel is worth reading and then set aside a luxurious afternoon to afford yourself a second viewing of Atonement.  Both endeavors are enriching and speculative, not to mention thought-provoking… After all, how is a person to atone for an accusation that irrevocably changes the course of a families history forever…

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