In 1956, aspiring American poet Sylvia Plath meets fellow poet Edward Ted Hughes at Cambridge, where she is studying. Enthralled with the genius of his writing, Sylvia falls in love with him even before meeting him, and he quickly falls in love with her. They eventually marry. Sylvia quickly learns that others are also enthralled with her husband, for a combination of his good looks, charisma, fame and success. Sylvia lives in her husband's professional shadow as she tries to eke out her own writing career, which doesn't come as naturally to her as it does to Ted. She also suspects him of chronic infidelity. Both issues affect Sylvia's already fragile emotional state, she who once tried to commit suicide earlier in her life. Through her pain and her anger, she does gain minor success as a writer, with a completed semi-autobiographical novel and a few well received collection of poems. Following, she tries to regain some happiness in her life with Ted, but has an alternate plan if that...Written by
During some of the filming, Gwyneth Paltrow stayed in Q staircase of Tree Court, Gonville & Caius College as this was only a few minutes away from the mocked-up old street at the back of Caius. See more »
When Ted Hughes says "It reminds me of my days in Mytholmroyd" he doesn't pronounce it correctly, saying "MITH-um-royd" instead of "MY-thum-royd". See more »
Dying is an art. Like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like Hell. I do it so it feels real. I guess you could say I've a call.
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More kitchen sink melodrama than famous poet biopic
What makes poetry a special art form? Answers might include bringing together extremes of joy and despair within a couple of lines, offering an alternative to rational thought, enriching our outlook and understanding in ways that prose would struggle to equal. Poetry can provide a single phrase or sentence that is easily remembered and somehow unlocks difficult-to-express inner states, just as a song can (and poetry is the basis of songs). It offers a freedom of expression where you don't need to explain every aspect of what you are saying - it urges the listener to grasp a semi-spoken truth or idea.
That's my rough guess. I've got over 40 books of poetry on my bookshelf at the last count, yet I'm no literary expert and appreciate poetry in a very simple way. Most people might agree that poetry offers something special, so a film celebrating the life of a famous poet might be expected to bring us a glimmer of that something.
Sylvia Plath has been championed not only as a poet but as a sort of feminist' a cry on behalf of women treated as a commodity, subjugated by an unfair male-dominated system. Cast in the lead role, Gwyneth Paltrow's Plath focuses much attention on how downtrodden she was, chained to two children, overshadowed by a brilliant and celebrated Ted Hughes, struggling with bitterness, jealousy, mental instability and a less than attractive persona. We also get the occasional poetic outburst, from who-can-recite-poetry-fastest undergrad shenanigans to romanticised performances of Chaucer (addressed to an audience of watching cows whilst floating downstream in a boat). All punctuated with soft-focus shots of a naked Plath/Paltrow, hysterical and often violent outbursts at Hughes, and scenes of a generally uninteresting and uninspiring life of moderate wretchedness. The only thing that distinguishes Sylvia from the now-unfashionable kitchen sink drama is that its central character is called Sylvia Plath.
So is the film worthy of the title? In A Beautiful Mind, we learnt of the joy of mathematics, Lunzhin Defence championed the addictive mysteries of chess, and Dead Poets Society made us lift our eyes to literary horizons that could inspire the dullest of minds. Sylvia was limited, perhaps, by the refusal of her daughter to allow much of Plath's poetry to be used in the film but, for whatever reason, it has failed to be more than a rather humdrum biopic. It offers little insight into her poetry or the magic of poetry generally, and adds little of interest about the historical figure that doesn't apply to millions of women. If any deep philosophical statement can be drawn from this, the film certainly doesn't make it, poetically or otherwise. Sadly, it would seem that the words of Sylvia Plath's daughter almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy: "Now they want to make a film . .. They think I should give them my mother's words . . . To fill the mouth of their monster . . . Their Sylvia Suicide Doll." Whilst not quite an empty doll, Sylvia is maybe an arm or leg short of a manikin.
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