Everyone describes this film as a black comedy, but its defining trait is its all-pervasive sense of irony. For starters, whereas DR. STRANGELOVE is a truly black comedy, ending in the destruction of the planet, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS is a moral tale in spite of its theme of cold-blooded revenge.
The "for instances" of irony go on forever in this film. Here are a few: Sibella rejects Louis for being too poor and marries the rich Lionel. Ultimately both she and Lionel turn in despair to the prosperous Louis for support.
As Young D'Ascoyne indifferently deprives Louis of his position at the shop, so Louis coolly goes on to replace Young D'Ascoyne at the bank.
The two members of the D'Ascoyne family who suffer the most emotional distress by Louis's murders (Edith and The Banker) are the two who do the most to give him aid and comfort.
The Reverend Henry, in spite of being a Christian minister, lives in an atmosphere of luxury and pleasure to excess. His very reputation provides an excuse for his poisoning and its resultant cover-up.
The Admiral's sheer inaccessibility protects him from Louis but dooms him all the same. Even a man standing beside him can't get through his thick skull in time to save him. He drowns at the salute with a life preserver bobbing nearby.
The General praises the fame of the Russians for their caviar, forgetting that they were also infamous for their bombs.
Lady Agatha is a crusader for women's rights, but it's her own equality with men as an heir to the Dukedom of Chalfond that marks her for elimination. Her willingness to martyr herself in one cause (women's suffrage and freeborn equality) gives Louis the opportunity to kill her for its exact opposite (patriarchy and inherited rights.)
The cruel and judgmental Duke is caught and sentenced to death in a mantrap set by his own orders, and executed with his own weapon.
Edith marries Louis as a show of faith in his innocence even though he turned her into a widow once before and will do so again if he's hanged.
The eager executioner loses his opportunity to hang a nobleman because his inflated sense of occasion delays the proceedings.
Lastly, Louis escapes the noose only to hang himself seven times over when years of meticulous planning are undone by a moment of forgetfulness.
The more you watch this movie, the more details emerge each time. They don't write scripts this brilliant anymore.
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