A movie is being made of a story, set in nineteenth century England, about Charles, a paleontologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her leave him after a short, but passionate affair. Anna (Meryl Streep) and Mike (Jeremy Irons), who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the movie, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters.Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
Source novelist John Fowles had not been happy with the filmed versions of his two earlier novels "The Collector" (1963) and "The Magus" (1965). Both of these earlier works had previously been filmed prior to the publishing of Fowles' third novel "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1969). So Fowles insisted on selecting the director of this movie, and his first choice, Karel Reisz, became the director. See more »
Early in the film, as Charles is going on to the jetty to warn Sarah, his cape changes in how it is buttoned from shot to shot. See more »
[placing his hand on Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of the Species"]
Nothing that has been said in this room tonight, or that remains to be said, will go beyond these walls.
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A multi-chambered Nautilus shell fossilized in stone.
This movie opens with a scene of an archaeologist chipping at a multi-chambered Nautilus shell fossilized in stone. The image is apropos, as the story itself opens from chamber to ever larger chamber as it weaves two seemingly disparate stories with a clever ending.
Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep are impressive as the leads in two different time lines. In one, Streep is a woman of poor reputation who ensnares a gentleman (Irons) in the black hole of her own guilt and loss. In the other, they are the romantically involved actors making a movie about a woman of poor reputation who ensnares a gentleman. And if that sounds a little too clever, it nonetheless has more creativity and insight than typical plot-twist movie, including the most contrived and overrated movie of all time, Memento (not good enough to be called bad).
There is a scene, in which Streep and Irons are rehearsing a scene from the movie, and, according to the story, it just isn't working. Then, all at once, Streep gets a look on her face, and we are transported into the past time line with a single glance from the greatest working actress and second only to Katherine Hepburn as the greatest actress of all time.
The cinematography, costumes and set designs are legendary, and come from the same team that gave us The Count of Monte Christo, which featured Guy Pearce, who was in the above-mentioned Memento (it still stinks, but how's that for six degrees?). And speaking of legends, the screenplay was written by none other than Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, and it shows.
It is a sublime movie experience to watch the delicately chambered story open up, and there are scenes that are so memorable, like Streep on the misty pier, that you would swear this movie comes from the Golden Age of cinema, not the go-go eighties. The movie is emotionally draining, and Streep gives a typically high concept performance. Irons lacks something, but it's not clear what, but in the end it helps support the story by making him appear flawed enough to have been trapped in the intricate web of The French Lieutenant's Woman.
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