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Alun Lewis: Death and Beauty (1994)

7.8
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Title: Alun Lewis: Death and Beauty (1994)

Alun Lewis: Death and Beauty (1994) on IMDb 7.8/10

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An ode to a poet
17 August 2003 | by (Scotland) – See all my reviews

If you have not read anything by Alun Lewis, go right out and do so. His best known poems are available on the web, with more in print. Lewis was a fairly major Welsh poet and short story writer (he wrote in English) of the 30s and 40s before he died suddenly in Burma at the age of 29. This documentary has some good things going for it in that it cast Peter Wingfield as Lewis and had him read some of Lewis' work. Despite the fact that he doesn't look much like Lewis and his original Welsh accent was a different one from Lewis', Wingfield has a very good voice, particularly for reading poetry. His performance of Lewis in the reconstruction scenes is also completely convincing. The documentary is worth watching for that alone. There is also some good analysis of Lewis' work in between. The first of two caveats is that you almost never can get the thing to see it. It came out through The Open University in Wales in 1994 and then disappeared off the map. Second, everyone interviewed spends a great deal of time talking about how sensitive and fragile Lewis was, but his death (probably a suicide) is glossed over and there is no actual diagnosis to back up the pop psychology. Lewis may or may not have been manic depressive (as his biographer says he was). Considering, however, the immense amount of stress he had been under for some time before his death (class and ethnic prejudice, incompatibility with military discipline, separation from his wife and guilt over nearly having an affair with another woman, the tension of his highly-dangerous job in Burma), he wouldn't have had to be unstable to feel pushed to the brink. It seems a bit insulting to chalk up his death to some poet's internal self-destruct button. I also missed the absence of his wife in the documentary, and would have liked to have heard whether or not she was even still alive. That said, if you are interested in Welsh poetry and/or Lewis' work and you can find this, you should give it a try.


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