|Index||3 reviews in total|
When I happened upon this DVD at the video store and saw that the charming Olivia Williams was going to be playing the young Agatha Christie, I knew I would like this film - Ms. William's performances in "The Sixth Sense," "Emma," and "Rushmore" had already won me over to her. The film itself does a fine job letting the audience in to the life of the very private mystery writer. Much of the dialog, I understand, was culled from Christie's own autobiographical works. Williams and Anna Massey (who plays Christie in later life) both wonderfully interpret Christie's words with an engaging sensitivity. As for the mystery of Christie's eleven missing days, the creators of this film approach the event with both creativity and respect for this amazing author.
Once, after a row with her husband, the mystery writer Agatha Christie went missing from her home for a few days without telling anyone where she had gone. For a brief time the press speculated that she might have been kidnapped, falling victim to the kind of plot development Christie might have used in one of her stories. This was the starting point for the movie 'The Lady Vanishes', and here it is dredged up again. Using scraps of the writer's own words, reported and written, this drama-documentary sets out to explore the inner workings of Christie's mind and reveal what was really going on when she did her famous bunk. Sadly the result is painfully pedestrian. The 1930s period hairstyles and clothes are all done as well as you would expect from the BBC; but an audacious lack of pace, the trite psychological 'insights' offered - insights that never really add up to anything - and the frankly dull performance from Olivia Williams as the young Christie (Anna Massie makes a much better fist of the elderly version) make for a very long 90 minutes indeed. One reads a lot about 'stillness' in front of the camera being important when acting for the screen, but Williams's resolute lack of expression acts like a lead lining. She has in the past been described as an actress (sorry, actor) people just like to look at, but if so, she has been trading on this advantage for too long. Earlier, in the same occasional series, the BBC did a similar drama documentary on George Orwell, "in his own words". That film was extremely good. This effort is not remotely in the same league.
Many stories here. There's the story Agatha wishes for her romantic
life, and where she gets her fuel for her writing career. There's the
story she is presented with: two husbands, each a selfish adulterer and
herself growing into a most unappealing person. There's the stories she
writes for her commercial readers, highly successful. And there's the
story she writes for herself of her life. That includes this bizarre
episode of her "disappearance," investigated as a possible kidnapping
or murder. In fact it was an elaborate story desperately begun with no
And then there's this story on the DVD, a confabulation of all these, the gimmick being that they are shuffled creatively. Its the sort of thing I love, that I live for as a consumer of stories.
And its really hard to mess up because you get a lot of value out of simply making the attempt to flatten all these folds into one layer.
But it is messed up here. Its virtually unwatchable. I don't think the reason is any of the usual candidates: the ordinary production values are good. The idea is inspired. I think it is something very simple and small, something that a film school assignment could address and fix. Its the tone of the thing. And how that tone is carried in the editing and to some extent in the score. Some small adjustments there and a few things shuffled about and this could have been a killer project.
Oh well, there is one rather interesting thing if you are a film enthusiast. Anna Massey plays the elder Agatha. Its a strange choice because Anna is thin attractive and poised, here playing a bemused wisdom. The real person was dumpy, sour and dull, full of self-loathing. Anna was one of the redheads in "Peeping Tom," an influential entry in the history of folded narrative. She was also Babs in "Frenzy," whose death triggered one of Hitchcock's most famous shots, "goodbye Babs."
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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