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This beautifully filmed treasure was a special treat to watch, as it
transported me into a different world and captured the feelings I had as a
student of English literature studying Coleridge and Wordsworth. Through
its artistic interpretation of the inner landscape of Coleridge's mind, it
reawakened the emotions that Coleridge's poetry itself evoked. I applaud
the credit it gave to the women in the lives of these two masters,
particularly Dorothy Wordsworth, whose importance to the poetry itself was
unrecognized in the original works and has always been underappreciated.
The film really brought to life "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Kubla
Khan," and "Frost at Midnight."
The movie was so powerful because of the beautiful filming--the sets, scenery, costumes, etc., the photographic talents that captured these, the haunting background score, and the talented acting of the cast, particularly that of Linus Roach, who displayed a variety of emotional states so wonderfully, though I was really moved by Emily Woof's acting, as well. At first it seemed to me that John Hannah was merely walking through his role, but I now feel that the subdued acting was deliberate in portraying a much more sinister Wordsworth. I also applaud Samantha Morton and Samuel West for their roles.
The one odd thing about the movie was the segment shown during the final credits, in which Coleridge walks around in modern London, with dreadful popular modern music playing. I understand that a statement was being made, but it contrasted too sharply with the beauty of the film and the reverie in which I found myself. (The music was dreadful because of the contrast with the earlier context.) I really didn't need to be unkindly startled from the earlier sweet emotions. Only credit-watchers like me have to worry about it, though.
Title word was coined as the capital of hell in a line (recited in the film) from Milton's Paradise Lost. The film examines the politics of poetry in turn-of 18th century England. New approaches to science and government were reflected in a radical/conservative rift among artists. Interesting look at what might have inspired and constrained Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan." Sounds boring but isn't; imaginative depiction of Coleridge's drug-induced visions and how he may have visualized what he was about to write during his "research" (like Method acting). I knew the famous lines from these poems but now I might be better prepared to read the rest. Intriguing, multi-layered story (don't know if it's "true" but certainly plausible) might have benefited from more historical background. Good performances; subtle Samantha Morton.
A drama first and biopic second, "Pandaemonium" tells of the midlife of renown classical wordsmith and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge who's life was not terribly interesting though he was on the cutting edge of 19th century neoromantic poetry. Probably taking some liberties for dramatic purposes, the film involves the poet's relationships with William Wordsworth, his opium addiction, his troubled marriage, and, of course, his struggle with the demons of the creative process. Visually beautiful, well acted, but a tad theatrical with some annoying interjections, Pandaemonium" is probably too esoteric for the film-going public at large. A splendid effort which will likely be most appreciated by those into classical literature - particularly 19th century poetry. (B)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The main reason I watched this movie was the cast - Roache, Hannah,
Morton, Woof - brilliant performers - so I decided to see it and wasn't
disappointed there. I had read that this wasn't historically very
accurate - So I suppose I will have to take the plot with a pinch of
The movie as whoever reads this will most probably know is about Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth and how they turned out their masterpieces (Ancient Mariner, Lyrical Ballads, Xanadu). The focus is however mainly on Colerdige and his life and his opium addiction and his 'worse addiction' - his friendship and trust in Wordsworth. Their friendship and the later disagreement in ideals is quite historical fact, I know. The only thing I'm not sure of is whether Wordsworth was the ogre he is made out to be. I know that he is supposed to have lifted most of his poetry from his sister Dorothy's diaries (which is subtly alluded to here). As to whether he really betrayed Colerdige and his friends, I have no idea. I wasn't also sure of the role played by Mary Wordsworth.
Anyway, in the movie, as Colerdige grows more addicted to Opium and dishes out the marvellous "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" which was supposed to be a collaboration between the two; Wordsworth grows jealous and uses his influence to ensure that the later (and much more phenomenal) "Kubla Khan" is not published along with his own "Lyrical Ballads". Colerdige realises the treachery at the end when "Kubla Khan" is almost lost but thanks to Dorothy's memory and devotion to Coleridge's work, (She herself is an Opium addict by now) it is salvaged.
As I said, I decided to watch the movie for the performances and I was vindicated. Linus Roache, as brilliant as ever, was stunning as the Opium-addicted, idealistic yet simple-souled Coleridge. He exudes mind-blowing energy throughout - simple, idealistic and open in the beginning, getting more complex as he comes to know Dorothy and is enchanted by her and heartbreaking in the opium-addicted sequences. It is impossible not to sympathise with the character. The man is a great actor. John Hannah is great as the straitjacketed, power-hungry Wordsworth. He mirrors the conflict in Wordsworth's mind very well - his devotion to Coleridge opposed to his disagreement with his revolutionary ideas, his devotion to Dorothy opposed to his disapproval of her devotion to Coleridge, his appreciation of Colerdige's genius opposed to his own jealousy - it's a perfect foil to Roache's Coleridge.
Emily Woof is a revelation as Dorothy Wordsworth. The final sequence when she recites Kubla Khan as a drug-addicted invalid is very touching. Samantha Morton doesn't get much to work with as Sara Colerdige, but she does an excellent job with whatever she has got.
Also noteworthy is Andy Serkis (Gollum :)) as the revolutionary John Thelwall and Samuel West as Robert Southey. The rest of the cast are competent as well.
An important part is the imagery and symbolism employed throughout the movie. The drug-induced dreams that Colerdige has about the ship of the Ancient mariner and Xanadu are very well done. Particularly mentionable is one scene where he climbs up a tree thinking it is the mast of the ship. Subtle symbols like the trail of a jet airplane across the sky, a concrete/glass dome in the background and in the end Colerdige reading his poetry in a modern home also work well. There is also a constant recitation of Coleridge's poetry in the background which creates a good atmosphere and Roache does a great job of the same.
The final credits, where Coleridge is shown in modern day London(?) to simulate him in Xanadu was dragging it a bit too far.
On the whole, I thought the movie will work well if you like Coleridge's poetry and if you are ready to see it as a dramatic endeavour and not as historical fact.
In the 19th Century, poets are the rock stars of their time using
drugs, living on the edge and revered by many for their creative
influence. At a rally where he protests against the war with France and
slavery, Samuel Coleridge meets the young William Wordsworth, who
idolises him and joins him in his "revolution". When Coleridge flees
the city with his wife and baby to set up a self-sustaining Utopia of
their own, William and his sister join them. The two friends get down
to work, although the writing process starts to destroy Coleridge from
the inside although maybe it's the opium? I taped this film because
the title and cast caught my interest but, whenever I read what it was
about I thought twice because it sounded like a dull historical film
about characters I didn't know a great deal about. Despite this I
decided to give it a go and see if it was any good. From the very start
the film interested me with its strange visuals and interesting
characters. The actual plot is not so easy to get into, but the
relationships are well written and there is always something going on.
I do not know the "real" facts behind these characters so I will not go
down the road of picking at this film for what definitely contains a
great deal of artistic license (the film ends on the London Eye) but in
a way it is the license that makes it more interesting. With this, we
are able to enter the experience rather than just the story; it also
allows for plenty of interesting touches. I laughed quite a bit to read
reviews ranting about errors in continuity, with some shots having
modern things in the background perhaps they didn't reach the end of
the film to see that this was deliberate and became more frequent as
the film went on (why review it if you haven't seen it all?). The
precise meaning of this was lost on me other than it being about
Coleridge being ahead of his time or timeless in his vision, but it did
make the film interesting. The characters of Coleridge and Wordsworth
are both interesting and it is they that make the story worth sticking
This is not to imply it is brilliant because it isn't, but it is enjoyable, interesting and different enough to keep me watching. The direction is a bit too forced at times but it does have some nice moments that are original if not cohesive. The cast do well to help inject a certain amount of humour, wonder and drama when any or all of them are required. Roache gets all the "wonder" stuff and is pretty good but he has the film stolen from him by stealth as Hannah delivers a great performance. Wordsworth starts out idolising Coleridge and following him, but then gradually turns to destroying his work etc this transformation is very well done by Hannah, who works the extremes well but does the transition better. Support is as strong as you would expect from Morton, Woof, Serkis and others but the film belongs to the lead pair and the director.
Overall this is not a brilliant film but it is an interesting one. The narrative is difficult because the director tries hard to make it obscure and difficult to get deep into, but the general delivery features an interest character story told with humour, drama and good acting. The interesting (if a little pretentious) direction is always interesting even if it can be a little alienating at times. If it sounds boring and "not your sort of thing" then you'll be the same as me in which case you should give it a try anyway, but I do wonder what fans of Wordsworth and/or Coleridge made of it.
I saw the movie on DVD and really enjoyed it. I guess I thought Wordsworth
and Coleridge were more friendly than this (and maybe they were) in reality.
The film sure is biased towards Coleridge. Wordsworth comes off very
badly--he gives up on his revolutionary principles, marries a shrewish wife,
and seems only interested in how he will be viewed by posterity. Wordsworth
goes to visit Coleridge and to collaborate with him, but can't seem to put a
single word to paper. Then, suddenly, _Lyrical Ballads_ is finished and
published and filled with Wordsworth's poetry!
The performances are excellent, particularly Linus Roache as Coleridge and Emily Woof as Dorothy Wordsworth. I was reminded of a similar film, _Haunted Summer_, which portrays the meeting of Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. The film is a bit odd at times, with jet trails moving across the skies of the 18th century, but it does a great job of getting at the creative impulse, showing the feverish bouts of imagination that gave rise to Coleridge's _Rime of the Ancient Mariner_ and the fragment _Kubla Khan_ (interesting that it shows an interruption by Wordsworth as the cause of STC losing his train of thought). Also, the scene with frost forming on the window while Coleridge cares for his son Hartley, leading to one of his more memorable early poems, is a standout. This film is well worth your time and isn't the boring, stodgy take on biography that some might be fearing.
At last, a film that depicts the lives and creative angst of poets that rings true, not just in its literal evocation but in the poetic handling of their inner worlds concurrent with their outer ones...their relationships, their involvement in the politics of their time. Above all, the passion that can possess a creative mind to the point of near self-destruction. Coleridge, the main protagonist in this film, is depicted (and well portrayed by Linus Roache) in all his struggles to reach the deepest source in himself, leading sadly to his addiction to laudanum. We're given graphic images of his creative process, the imagination (of both the poet and film-maker, much credit to Julien Temple) made visual (with some interesting references to our contemporary world). We see Wordsworth pretty much through the eyes of Coleridge and his relationship with him and his sister. Dorothy (beautifully played by Emily Woof). A Wordsworth fan might easily be critical of such a view, but this after all is Coleridge's day in the sun (or shade). Even if you're not a poetry enthusiast (which, alas, counts too many, especially in American culture) this film can bring you entertainment and much more...the suggestion that within us all lies a source of beauty that can allow us to appreciate it in its verbal form. See it! It's in my view one of the finest films in many a moon.
I knew some of Wordsworth's poems from reading, and a few of Coleridge by repute. This film was a very enjoyable and wonderfully acted experience from which I learned, as well as laughed and sighed. Now I want to read more of both, and return to the north-east of England again.
During a movie bordem sets in at some point due to, most often, a lack of continually interesting plot twists and such. For some reason that I cannot fathom, this movie captivated me in a way that I have not felt before. The characters were well developed, the poetry was well read and the plot (though somewhat exaggerating the truth) was interesting and deep. A definte must-see film.
I've been a movie fan for only a year, and have seen dozens in that time.
This is by far the most exciting and memorable movie I've seen. Before
seeing the movie I had no interest in English poets and knew little about
them. After seeing the movie, I was entranced and had to find out
The movie tells the story through the laudanum delusions of Coleridge. Linus Roache is awesome in the role and the weaving of his poetry and his weird and scary visions is breathtakingly original. Coleridge and the Wordsworths lived 200 years ago and yet they seemed of our time. Using drugs, craving new experiences and sensations, they are like young people of today, scandalising their elders and shocking polite society.
The camera techniques are spectacular, as are the costumes, the locations and the editing, as you would expect from a production connected with the BBC. Watch and enjoy - you will not be disappointed!
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