Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures (TV Movie 2004) Poster

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anskov20 August 2005
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.
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Dull through and through
uta-78 March 2005
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.
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didn't mind it
blanche-228 August 2017
"Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures" from 2004 is an attempt, as in the 1979 film Agatha, to examine Christie's mysterious disappearance for 11 days. The theory presented in Agatha was that she was planning to commit suicide in such a way as to frame her husband for murder but is stopped by the Dustin Hoffman character, an American reporter.

A book that examined the disappearance stated that she did it to embarrass her husband and didn't realize the enormity of the drama it would cause.

In this TV movie, she is thought to have been suffering from amnesia, devastated by her husband leaving her, her mother's death, and the pressures of her work.

My own opinion is that she wanted to get away from it all, and due to the fact that she had such a wild imagination, called herself by the last name of her husband's mistress, went to a spa, and lived a fantasy imaginary life for a while. I think her unhappiness drove her to it. I'm not sure I believe she had amnesia - she may have said she did. I think it was a necessary respite.

The title Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures is not really accurate as the movie really only concentrates on her meeting Archie, getting married, and disappearing. Her subsequent marriage is rushed through, and we learn nothing of her interest in spiritualism, something she shared with Conan Doyle. We also don't learn how sick she became of Poirot, calling him at one point "an egocentric creep."

Anna Massey plays the older Christie, and Olivia Williams the younger. I thought Olivia Williams did a good job. Great production values, too.

Agatha Christie was a fascinating and complicated woman. This movie doesn't tell her story, but rather speculates about a mysterious time in her life, a time when I think she acted out a fantasy rather than having a character do it.
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The Matron Sleeps
tedg18 April 2007
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 end written.

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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