A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ...
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Robert De Niro,
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A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist 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 and Mike, who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the film, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters.Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
In "Harold Pinter's The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981): A Masterpiece of Adaptation" from the book "The Films of Harold Pinter" (2001), author Steven H. Gale states that "Acton's Report" which is mentioned in the film by Meryl Streep, when she says in the journal "The Lancet" that there were estimated in 1857 to be 80,000 working prostitutes in the County of London and that one house in sixty functioned as a brothel, references the work "Prostitution, Considered in Its Moral, Social, and Sanitary Aspects" (1857) by William Acton. 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 »
[quoting Dr. Hartmann's treatise on melancholia]
"It was as if her torture had become her delight."
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Haunting environments, two of the century's greatest film actors, one of the half-dozen or so best modern playwrights and Fowles' experiment in parallel narratives. Fowles' work was pale compared to Nabokov's "Pale Fire," for instance in building a convoluted, layered narrative, but is comparable in extent. Here, Pinter's obsession with time refines the vision -- his "Proust Screenplay," also centered on layered time, is much studied and admired.
Everything clicks here. Gorton's designs are detailed and hypnotizing, especially the use of the Lyme groin and related tunnel-like streets. Francis' camera (after "Elephant Man") captures a dim grey sky, made sharp in modern sequences. With the director, they have contrived to quote great paintings. In particular, the first shot after the three year search when Irons gets the telegram directly and obviously references a famous Monet painting -- in fact the first impressionistic painting, a turning point in the artist's perspective. Davis' music -- the only thing that spans time -- supports.
And Meryl is lovely, but so different in each role. We really wonder if her modern madness created the modern affair in quest of the perfect chemistry for the Sarah role It makes Sarah's imagination deeper and more self-referential than in the book. One scene is uniquely masterful: the modern actors "walk" through a scene, then they do it again. Streep turns on, "steps into" the role and becomes Sarah, and a moment later, she pulls the whole scene into the past. This will stick with you, I promise.
The director, Reisz, is supposed to have suggested the concept to Pinter, and then attracted the very best. His tightness of vision is apparent. I wish he were still making films. In a sense he is: he literally "wrote the book" on modern film editing.
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