Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review: "The Lady of the Lake" by Sir Walter Scott

“Harp of the North! that mouldering long hast hung
On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan's spring,”

Thus begins one of the loveliest poems composed by man. I have never been a great reader of poetry as I find it tends to make me too introspective and musing and generally overly romantic, yet poetry can live and breathe in such magical ways and I have always dreamed of finding that poetry which would swirl, the way people describe its behavior in books. No doubt you wonder why I give these details? Because all of the above describes “The Lady of the Lake”. It is whimsical and romantic yet it pounds with adventure and battle tension, the poetry going from sylvan to warlike with startling swiftness. One moment you are enjoying mountain vistas and then with a sudden whirl about you are in the midst of scenes of war, dashing you in hopeless delight and heart-stopping power along with it. The poetry mingles things borrowed from history with the things of legend so that the one does not leave before the other begins. Scott based the poem in places he knew well and his love shines through the words. Perhaps he did make the place a little more romantic than it truly was, but he did it so perfectly that in his story and writing he created a flawless world of his own. I was not expecting to be swept away by this poem, but I found myself caught into this work that weaves the richness of countries discovered with that of fairytales.

“The wild rose, eglantine, and broom
Wasted around their rich perfume;
The birch-trees wept in fragrant balm;
The aspens slept beneath the calm;
The silver light, with quivering glance,
Played on the water's still expanse -
Wild were the heart whose passion's sway
Could rage beneath the sober ray! “

- Canto I: XXXV

Monday, March 10, 2014

Movie Spotlight: Emma (1996)

For my second review, as part of the Jane Austen Review Challenge, I am featuring the delightful and sparkling version of “Emma” starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

Accuracy to book: The story is slightly condensed, but nevertheless it very much keeps the rhythm and atmosphere of the book and point by point stays very close to the original work. Frank Churchill is not quite as unkind and rude to A Certain Person and is not quite as completely deceitful as shown in the book. Not quite as much of John and Isabella is seen in the film, as in the book. However I am not a serious, sign waving, accurate-to-the book-or-die kind of personage. I simply wish the adaptation to be true to the tone of the book, in which point I think the filmmakers and actors made a very pleasing achievement.

Costumes: Of all the period drama wardrobes I have had the pleasure of viewing, Emma's is among my favorites. Each gown is fresh and lovely and becomes her so particularly well, that they are perfectly delightful to view. My personal favorites are the pale lime green gown that she wears when Mr. and Mrs. Elton come to tea, and the Box Hill picnic gown with the ivory colored overdress with the sage green vine pattern upon it. The other characters outfits are also well done. -. the most memorable being Mrs. Elton’s fashionable ensembles, her church one in particular being so...extraordinary, especially in contrast to Emma's simple elegance.

Scenery/Sets: Lovely, lovely, lovely! The scenery is exactly like a fairyland–or nigh on a fairy-land–for it is the English countryside, and what a lovely flower bedecked and sunny spot it is.

Music: The music interlaces perfectly with the rest of the film–rippling with a lighthearted and satisfactory tone.

The People -

Emma – Emma is the type of character who it seems would be difficult to play as she must at once be meddlesome and have a certain charm which makes her somewhat likeable. I confess that Emma has never been one of my favorite Austen heroines, but this Emma very nearly makes me reconsider. Showing both her flaws and foibles, her true sweetness and ultimate ability to be shown where she was mistaken, she not only executes her character to perfection, but has a naturally fine beauty and elegance. She also complements Mr. Knightley most excellently.

Mr. Knightley – Ah, Mr. Knightley. What a heavy duty he carries as the second most popular Austen hero. Does he bear it well? Yes, indeed. He is not afraid in the least of saying the plain and exact truth–even if it might make him unpopular with a Certain Young Person. As for this portrayal,  he simply evinces the true gentleman. when he smiles and laughs and says “EmMA,” in his peculiar Mr. Knightley manner,  he is just so –likeable and charming.

Harriet – is wonderful. She is not exactly clever, but very sweet and pleasing. I very much liked how, though she does in a way fall in love with two other men, underneath–despite both Emma and herself–she still likes Robert Martin the best. This is shown by how fluttered she becomes when she meets him whereas with Mr. Elton she was just more awkward and disquieted.

The Others –  Mrs. Elton happens to be played by one of my all-time favorite actresses, Juliet Stevenson. Fashionable and nettlesome, I not only say so myself, but my friends tell me that she is hilarious, irritating perfection itself. (For the movie trivia persons: you can also see her as quirky and kind Miss Heliotrope in “The Secret of Moonacre”.) Mr. and Mrs. Weston are both excellently done–as is Mr. Woodhouse.

Favorite Moments and Final Thoughts: Some of my favorite moments: the proposal – “Oh dear..dear? Oh! The deer we need for the um–venison stew!”  and “I do not wish to call you 'friend', because I wish to call you something much dearer.” Ah, yes–that whole sequence is a favorite of mine. As is Emma's first tea with Mrs. Elton. From my father to my littlest sister my whole family enjoys this film. There is not one indecent scene and it is romantic without being overly sentimental and lighthearted without being shallow. The entire aura of the story and characters–every little bit of the film, in fact, is so perfectly lovely that it leaves one feeling incredibly satisfied and cheerful. 

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