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When the father of privileged Rosina da Silva violently dies, she decides to pass herself off as a gentile and finds employment with a family in faraway Scotland. Soon she and the family father, Charles, start a passionate secret affair. Written by
Well photographed period piece with interesting music
The story is not up to great things, oft told one way or another and smacking of Jane Austen romantic drama aspirations: a beautiful jewess of sephardi descent in 1830s London decides to take the job of governess to a little girl in a great big mansion supposedly on the Island of Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland (though I did glimpse a bit of Glencoe, Scottish mainland, and indeed what was definitely the beautiful Cuillins on Skye) where she falls in love with the master of the household, father of the little girl, and then the son falls in love with her. Well, that alone might have you wandering over to the next projection sala or just twiddling with the remote control, if it were not for certain other factors which may well be called redeeming, so good they are.
Minnie Driver certainly looks the beautiful jewess, but her interpretation goes a bit awry at times, or even careers off the rails; her performance has ups and downs of feelings and passions which do not really make much sense. Better directing might well have produced better results from Ms. Driver, as well as the fact that the focussing of the story is very much a feministic appreciation, rather slanted perhaps, forgiveably so I am not so sure, rather as if Ms. Goldbacher herself was brought up on the aforementioned Jane Austen, as well as Daphné du Maurier, a touch of the Brontës, and she finally spiced it all up with some misgivings from D.H. Lawrence. The result is a confusion of desire and sex being mistaken for romantic love. But don't we all, anyway?
The excellent photography and scenification makes up quite a lot for many of these pitfalls; the costumes and the settings of the interior of the house of such lucky landed-gentry is superb, as well as the scenes in London in the opening and closing parts of the film. This visual experience is greatly enhanced by the musical setting. Ed Shearmur has done an excellent job of creating his own `sephardi' music, helped by offerings from the Israeli singer, Ofra Haza. The music contributed greatly to the setting of scenes, ably supplying tone and atmosphere. Such that I feel one could enjoy this film solely for the photography, costumes and sets, and the music, and you could quite happily skip most of the story. It is not that the story is so bad, just that it is not anything special to write home to mother about, although she might well be the first to disagree.
The Sephardi songs made me remember an old recording I have of some very beautiful melodies sung by Soledad Bravo on a CBS record maybe 20 years ago and which might be found on a Sony CD. The intepretation of these songs, sung in `ladino' (sometimes called judezmo) which is an archaic form of today's Spanish, is pretty authentic. Ladino is still used today by descendents of people thrown out of Spain during the `Inquisición', and now living in parts of Turkey (specifically I found it being spoken in Izmir), Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro and the Croatia coast. Within Israel of course, this language is pretty frequent.
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