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Set in 1930s Shanghai, where a blind American diplomat develops a curious relationship with a young Russian refugee who works odd -- and sometimes illicit -- jobs to support members of her dead husband's aristocratic family.
In mid-1800's England, Oscar is a young Anglican priest, a misfit and an outcast, but with the soul of an angel. As a boy, even though from a strict Pentecostal family, he felt God told him through a sign to leave his father and his faith and join the Church of England. Lucinda is a teen-aged Australian heiress who has an almost desperate desire to liberate her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the Australia of that time. She buys a glass factory and has a dream of building a church made almost entirely of glass, and then transporting it to Bellingen, a remote settlement on the north coast. Oscar and Lucinda meet on a ship going to Australia; once there, they are for different reasons ostracized from society, and as a result "join forces" together. Oscar and Lucinda are both passionate gamblers, and Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport the glass church to the Outback safely. Oscar accepts her wager, and this leads to the events that ... Written by
This is one of my favorite movies. Regular readers of my comments will wonder why I elevate it to my "must see" category
Part of the reason I want you to see it is because of how well it pairs with Cate's masterpiece, "Heaven." Now, that film can stand on its own as a transcendent cinematic experience. It easily shifts us from a "real" world into one more magical and over the course of the experience that distance increases.
It took Kieslowski's notion of cinematic distance and added the journey to that distance. It is one of the most important successful experiments in cinema and it owes much to the collaboration of Cate.
That reflects on this. A smaller project. A less ambitious director, but still with an affecting emotional directness. A pre-existing story that has literary strengths that become cinematic defects. And yet there is that same collaboration with the creating of an alternative magical reality fueled by obsession.
There is that same smooth slide from here to there. There is that same equating of wilderness (a Herzogian river) to the internal landscape. The same trigger of the gamble.
And also, there is the remarkable glass chapel. One shot has it moving down the river, but it seems as if it is floating through the trees. You are dead if that does not stick with you for years.
Alas, not much is made of a central image in the book the tensed glass tears that explode when gently traced at their origin.
The major flaw is Fiennes. Both brothers have a sort of forehead acting style which unravels much of the subtleties of Cate's acting by breathing. But she is so breathtaking an actress in both these films, even though she is only the referent in the last part of this.
See the two films in one night. Any order.
Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.
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