3 July 2014

The Invisible Woman


The Invisible Woman 2013
  • Director: Ralph Fiennes
  • Based on the book by Claire Tomalin
  • Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Hollander, John Kavanaugh, Tom Burke, Perdita Weeks
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Ralph Fiennes -  Harry Potter,  Coriolanus, The Reader, In Bruges, The Constant Gardener, Maid in Manhattan, Sunshine, The English Patient,  Spider, Strange Days, The Quiz Show, Schindler’s List, Wuthering Heights
    • Felicity Jones – Brideahead Revisited
    • Kristin Scott Thomas – Sarah’s Key, Nowhere Boy, Il y’a longtemps que je t’aime, Keeping Mum, Gosford Park, The English Patient, Angels and Insects, Richard III, A Handful of Dust
    • Joanna Scanlon –  In the Loop, The Other Boleyn Girl, Stardust, Notes on a Scandal, Little Britain, Girl with the Pearl Earring, Jane Eyre
    • Tom Hollander - Hanna, The Soloist, In the Loop, Valkyrie, Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest, Elizabeth the Golden Age, A Good Year, The Darwin Awards, A Mother’s Son
    • John Kavanaugh – The Butcher Boy, A Mother’s Son, Braveheart
    • Tom Burke – The Libertine
    • Perdita Weeks – Hamlet
  • Why? Charles Dickens, Ralph Fiennes
  • Seen: July 2, 2014, at the cinema with Hal and friends B-IS and ÖB.
It’s a simple story really, almost trite.  A middle-aged man with children and a long-suffering wife who doesn’t understand him falls in love with an eighteen-year-old actress.  It’s just that it’s in Victorian England and the man is Charles Dickens.
The young woman is Nelly Ternan. The story is told in flashbacks from her point of view when she herself is middle-aged and married long after Charles Dickens has died.
It’s a very slow film with long silences, many close-ups and sensually beautiful landscapes – one reminiscent of Monet and his wife is a field of poppies – and sea views. The older Nelly walks often and long on the wind-swept beaches of southern England.
Unlike Charles Dickens’ books there is no sentimentality in the film but there are strong feelings.  Mostly suppressed but when they break through it is dramatic and gripping.
Fiennes uses great control in his direction of the film and reserved sensitivity in his portrayal of Charles Dickens. Joanna Scanlon as his wife Catherine Dickens, mother of their many children, gives us a retiring but stoic woman who is both forced and chooses to live in the shadow of her extremely famous and sought-after husband. Is she the invisible woman?  Or is it Nelly, played by a Felicity Jones whose quiet beauty and firm but so very subtle facial nuances can be compared to Scarlett Johansson’s radiant role in Girl with the Pearl Earring.
It’s a film about aloneness and trying not to be alone. It’s about men’s possibilities and women’s restrictions.  Nelly says in protest to Charles Dickens’ friend and collaborator Wilkie Collins (Hollander) who urges her to break with Victorian convention: “You men do.  We wait.”
The film is a worthy addition to the many cinematic portrayals of authors.  I recommend it.

4 * of 5

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