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Five centuries ago a mural was created in a country church in the north of England and then hidden under layers of white paint. Looking at it again will be a distraction, the Rev. Mr. Keach tells WWI veteran Tom Birken who will spend a month in the country restoring the mural. Another veteran, James Moon, is looking for the grave of an ancestor of the patroness of the church who fought in the Crusades. The rector's wife, Alice, comes to see the mural and later visits Birken's bell tower abode, bringing a basket of apples. Will she open the book in which he has pressed the yellow rose she gave him earlier? Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
I am posting this submission partly in reaction to the last one currently on the site, which gave the movie the thumbs down. Then its author revealed that he had spent American currency hiring the video and I thought: aha, so that's why.
This film partly celebrates a piece of rural, Northern England and it really does help if you live there, which I do. (I could even take you to the railway station where the early scenes were shot, featuring incidentally the most unconvincing screen rain I have ever seen! it also stars in the first Harry Potter movie) The delicious soundtrack could only have been composed by someone steeped in Elgar, Delius and Vaughan Williams. Only a man who knows if not at first hand then at least by intimate report the rivalry between "church" and "chapel" - which still persists in these parts - could have written that scene in the organ shop.
It's not an action movie but rather one that moves with the languid pace of a summer that feels as if it should be Edwardian, but that era is a dream now. There are dark ripples below the sunny surface. Birken's nervous tic, the nightmares of the trenches, the casual debauchery of Moon, are the aftertaste of WW1's horror. What of Christian faith after such slaughter? There is the simple Phillistine chapel culture, its weary preacher still ranting at his congregation about their sins, unaware that the war has made private transgression seem utterly trivial. There is the cold liturgical worship offered by the pious, buttoned up, tight-fisted Rev Keach. Birken finds no meaning in either, and immerses himself in the work of restoring a masterpiece from an age when faith still gripped the psyche, hoping perhaps to draw something of its historic power into himself. Moon - Branagh's character - is shallow by comparison, idle, serene, detached.
The scenes with Birken and Alice Keach are little gems of implication and understatement, she - it seems knowingly - playing Eve, complete with temptress's apple, to Birken's Adam. The potential for an affair is manifest, but we sense nothing will come of it, and in the last scene of the movie Birken is seen throwing away an apple core.
Branagh would go on to greater things; this is Colin Firth's film and while his celebrity rating has soared since he made it, I doubt he will ever turn in a performance that surpasses it in subtlety and richness.
But to end as I began: this is not a movie that I would expect to travel well. You really need to be English appreciate it - heck, I've seen American movies that washed right over me because I don't understand the rules of baseball!
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