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Showing posts with label Anne Brontë. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anne Brontë. Show all posts

Saturday, 20 May 2017

From a town in western Russia to the north of England... (work in progress)

An accreting assortment of Tweets about Lady Macbeth (2016)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

20 May

An accreting assortment of Tweets about Lady Macbeth (2016) (work in progress)

Those born in Russia (or the former USSR) – or who were not, but who study Russian literature – may be in a different relation to Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and, because considering it in, its literary and social context – if we are interested in music, we will all know that (so the story goes) Dmitri Shostakovich, looking at an edition of Pravda, found himself there condemned*, and having [to appear] ‘to change his ways’ (again, as the story goes).

One question, amongst many, that the film may pose (not necessarily a bad thing in a film that we should wish to enquire) is whether it commends to us Shostakovich’s opera / libretto, and / or Nikolai Leskov’s original novella (from 1865)…

In modern Russia, the town of Mtsensk lies in Oryol Oblast (a federal subject of Russia)

Film and other references :

* Effi Briest ~ Theodor Fontane

* Lady Chatterley (2006) [adapting** John Thomas and Lady Jane ~ D. H. Lawrence]

* Sunset Song (2015)

* The Tenant of Wildfell Hall ~ Anne Brontë

End-notes :

* Not straightaway, when the work was first performed in Leningrad and Moscow (within days) in January 1934, but around two years later.

** Not 'Based on one of the most scandalous novels of our time', as IMDb asserts (@IMDb), with regard to Lawrence...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Saturday, 15 November 2014

In my Father's house, there are many rooms

This is a review of Ingmarssönerna (Sons of Ingmar) (1919)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

13 November

This is a Cambridge Film Consortium review of Ingmarssönerna (Sons of Ingmar) (1919) as performed at The Arts Picturehouse (@CamPicturehouse) with live solo piano accompaniment by John Sweeney

If you missed it, the film is to be shown again on Sunday 16 November at 1.00 p.m.

Trish Shiel, of Cambridge Film Consortium, introduced the event, telling us that it was being projected from a 35mm print and that, to add in an English translation of the inter-titles (which are in Swedish), manual dual projection was being used - stressing that The Arts is one of a few cinemas equipped to mount such a performance.

She also said a few words about the film, its history, and its director, male lead and co-writer, Victor Sjöström, who later worked with Ingmar Bergman (who remarked of the film Where did Sjöström get the idea of composing these incredible sequences, these remarkable, exciting scenes ?). That said, nothing prepared for the pleasure of learning who played the principal female role of Brita (on whom, more below...) :

The title of Ingmarssönerna (1919) has been translated as Sons of Ingmar, but they are more like 'descendants' than sons : suffice to say that it reveals little to say that, in thought if not in reality (whatever reality is, when one can feel oneself to be part of a line of men who have occupied the same land for centuries), Young Ingmar goes to meet his father, Old Ingmar, with a dilemma.

And, before he gets there, we have visuals of a ladder up to heaven (and down from that ladder) that give us all the evocations from Jacob's ladder to Jack's Beanstalk to The Tower of Babel. Quite a quaint sort of heaven, however, where only the directly ascending, male relatives are there (and, from what follows, they are unaware of what befalls those still alive) ?

Be that as it may, Young gets Old to come into a side-room and tells him a whole story, where the inter-titles, from time to time, remind us with an icon that this is still in heaven and still telling the background to the dilemma...

A risky stratagem for a film, one might think, to rely on the patience of the audience with such a lengthy narration, and which is hardly a strength of the structure here any more than it is, celebratedly, in Anne Brontë's novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Yet, after the decision that is pressing on Young Ingmar has been explained, and when omens have been interpreted as guiding his way, the film distinctly picks up in energy and emotional pull, as the core story that was within that daring flashback now unfolds.

Harriet Bosse, playing in Strindberg (apparently in To Damascus)

Perhaps naively, we may imagine that, because film was in its relative infancy, a dramatic approach to contextualizing our mixed motives and feelings in life through this medium was necessarily novel. Put this in context, though, and this film's Harriet Bosse (as Brita) was, briefly, August Strindberg's third wife, and Strindberg wrote the roles of Eleonora in Easter (1901) and Agnes in A Dream Play (1902) for her (amongst others), the latter of which alone shows the psychological depth of theatre at the time :

Although Dream Play was not to be performed until 1907, that is a clear decade before the present film, so we can guess that Sjöström and Selma Lagerlöf - of whose novel Jerusalem this film adapts the first part (and Karin Ingmarsdotter (1920) the conclusion) - would have known some of Strindberg's significant plays, which date to when Lagerlöf was writing her work.

Though it is true to remark, say, that the preoccupations at the time of the United Artists, from Mary Pickford to D. W. Griffiths, were very different from that here**, one only needs to delve into an overview such as Francine Stock's In Glorious Technicolor: A Century of Film and How it has Shaped Us to realize that, just because these films now look old (physically, they are), we need not imagine their makers to be unknowing - any more than we should imagine that our grandparents knew nothing about sex.

Without giving away the main story, there are so many reminders here of other works. For the subject-matter, though it has its particularities, is universal :

* Schumann's last acts outside the locked door of the asylum

* Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête*** (1946)

* Shakespearean pairs such as Much Ado About Nothing's Beatrice and Benedick

* Even Chaucer's long-suffering Griselda**** (in The Clerk's Tale)

In the screening, what made the impact was the subtlety of Bosse's expressiveness, the action going on in the eyes and the look of her face (when not, very demonstrably, throwing herself on her pillow, or the ground), and one need only reach back in time to what she might have been like on the stage. Now, though, one is haunted by Sjöström's long-jawed face, and, in the context of the film, he is having himself be La Bête, with a largely down-turned, hangdog mouth, until he finds out who he is.

Which is where the story closes, not concerned with the expected resolution, but with a reverie of the kind that James Thurber gave us for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), when we gained a name for that type of character / behaviour :

Since this is just the first part of the story (seemingly re-made, according to Amazon®, in Jerusalem (1996)), though it stands complete in itself (despite the puzzling absorption in Ingmar's being elsewhere), one might detect a hook here, from Sjöström, for Karin Ingmarsdotter...

In introducing the screening for those unfamiliar with silent film, Trish Sheil had rightly pointed out that the painting of the scene in the accompaniment is part of what makes such films different - as is knowing that it is the accompanist's skill to give that portrayal whilst keep pace with the unfolding of the film.

In his inspiringly colourful accompaniment, John Sweeney (who gave us Hitchock's Blackmail at Cambridge Film Festival (#CamFF) 2012) organized himself around themes for the various moods and evocations of the film, from anxiety to tenderness, or to depict energetic behaviour as against reflectiveness - and, likewise, using unsettling rumbles alongside bell-tones (the high and low registers of the keyboard).

Sweeney had a very warm round of applause at the close, and had provided us with an excellently enjoyable musical experience to match the emotional range of the film.

And now there is a follow-up piece about the effect of inter-titles in the film...


* Which, thanks to marketing manager Jack Toye's Tweet from the second screening, looks frighteningly complicated :

** With, for example, Pickford continuing to play the role of a young girl / woman when she was very much older - just as, here, Bosse and Victor Sjöström are too old to be taken literally for Brita and Young Ingmar (Bosse was 41 at the time of the film's release).

*** In Young Ingmar, a similarly gruff and hidebound figure, desiring wisdom, but finding himself locked in by duty, and Birta, against her will, in the equivalent of La Bête's domain : even requesting Birta's hand, his vacillating nature intervenes, and his heart is never quite in it.

**** The magnanimity of You'll have to forgive me for all the pain that I have caused you, Ingmar and I wanted to ask your forgiveness, although also the exposed feeling of O, dear God, I will be saved of nothing ?, when he insists on reading her letter.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)