Tag: Film

Sarah Miles

[All Spoilers- well known story (book and film)]

Sparked by a character meme going around, I went back to watch the film that first came to mind when faced with the seemingly simple question of, “What three or four fictional characters do you identify with strongly?” Not that I could narrow it down to two or three characters, but some faces flashed up immediately without much thought at all.

Sarah Miles

“Are you saying my husband’s a fiction?” – “I’m saying he could be, in the right hands.”

It has been a few years, but at a difficult crossroad point in my life I watched this film every few months, as if working on a puzzle. In my case, it wasn’t that there was an affair, or another actual person creating such a contrast, but that my then life nonetheless felt like Sarah’s… lonely though surrounded with others, perfectly fine in many important ways, but, as Bendrix identifies immediately upon seeing her, restless. He attributes much to the context of the war.

This was before I knew the background of Graham Greene’s novel The End of the Affair, and knew that the story was based very strongly on his actual life experience of living with his lover, Catherine Walston, and his lover’s husband… a socially imperfect situation that nonetheless for a time seemed to ensure what was needed for each. I haven’t made a deep study of it, because the novel conveyed his sense of things well, as did the film, though altered. Greene, as an intelligent, wrestling, person of faith, was a master at including this Invisible Character, registering even the subtle effects of belief and disbelief within the flow of characters’ consciences and actions.

For Sarah, God takes form of both savior and destroyer. In Bendrix, an unworthy intrusion. For Henry, a man without passion, God doesn’t register at all. And making the center of the story even more obvious, the insertion of a priest wrestling with his own desire, who seemed to feel the ownership Henry didn’t, with a different justification.

Julianne Moore is perfect in this part, as is the clothing of the time… the tone of a world pretending to continue functioning as usual, though falling apart. And this film was the first time I laid eyes on Ralph Fiennes, before I hunted down nearly everything else he’d ever acted in.

“Does Henry like onions?”

I liked so much about the rhythms of the film, how we begin the story part way through, actually more toward the end than beginning, then look back from Maurice Bendrix’s view first, and through the eyes of his wide-eyed and somewhat bumbling investigator. The case against Sarah is strong, not just the case against her treatment of Henry, but Maurice too. Henry broods over the loss of his comfortable world, but Maurice rages, first against Sarah, channeling his passion.


We get to see the intensity of their love affair in flashbacks of lovemaking (admittedly, filmed too overtly, saw to butter), and to follow the desperation of his doubts and fears, along with her assurances, before they are aware of what is about to happen to their bubble.

“How can you be jealous the rain?”

Until the day she rejects him at the most vulnerable moment possible, in a way he can’t possibly accept nor understand.


“Do you believe in things you can’t see?”

Then appears to go on with the motions of her life. Until a new piece of evidence arrives. Sarah’s view, in the device of a diary, allows Bendrix to discover her heart along with her unreasonable reasons. With him, we go back into the very same moments, through Sarah’s eyes.


“I wasn’t sure I liked the peace.”

He reaches out immediately, following her into a church, where the Invisible becomes visible. I especially liked that… as though he had been waiting for that one key that he underneath it all knew was coming, to confirm what he could not let go of.each-time-i-tried

“Each time I tried (to tell you), something would happen.”

I suppose that’s a common fantasy – one more people are actually playing out when their Plan As crumble – returning to their ‘real’ love. Just today a friend shared photos of a couple that “took a twenty year break” but feel they’ve gotten destiny right this time.

I guess the funny thing for me is, I wouldn’t be able to write about my own intimate process with this film and with Sarah, if there were any romantic partner to be careful of. That in itself tempts me to protect the aloneness I also at times, despise…. the emptiness that Sarah says, in the language of the church, God fills with Himself.


“Happiness is harder to write.”

For a moment, they are happy. They live out their life together sharing imagination, over a weekend. Until Henry arrives, not to cause a scene or win her back, but to give bad news. Sarah then calmly references the two vows of her life, one to Henry and one to God.

“See Morris, you may have to keep your promises.”

Within this sorrowful reality, Henry proposes that Maurice move in… that they will care for her in her last days, together. These scenes are quite beautiful… the men embracing, Bendrix bringing Henry tea, the priest coming to visit and being turned away, Bendrix angrily identifying himself as “the lover, Father.”


And there is a small funeral scene that was missing from the book but brings the focus of the film back to faith… not just Sarah’s but now Bendrix’s angry embrace of God “as though You existed.”

I found while re-watching, that the story still has questions for me, although the experience of watching the film wasn’t quite as entrancing.  The reds of Sarah’s clothing, and the overall aesthetic, isn’t one I could ever tire of, but the film itself could be finer, more subtle. Actually The English Patient has many very similar themes and captivations, and also more intricate care.

Character Meme


Bottom to top:
Etheline Tennebaum (TRT), Hana (TEP), Hang No Ra (TA), Amy (TWW)
Kim Il Ri (VL), Selkie (TSoRI), Sarah Miles (TEotA), Charlene (FS)
Momo (Momo), Lorelei (TGG), The Log Lady (TP), Mary Lennox (TSG)
Elinor (SaS), Lady Pole (JSaMN), Belle (BatB), Elphaba ( W )

The Cure

So the cure for malaise turned out to be watching a few Korean films and a British series based on a book I’ve read a few times and have given several friends.

Starting with the films:

A Man and a Woman (Korean)The french film is the one that probably comes to mind for most when reading the title, and it was my fondness for that film that brought me to this one, along with actors Jeon Do-Yeon and Gong Yoo. On the heels of watching the Korean version of The Good Wife, I watched both this film and Memories of the Sword: the first which I was totally absorbed in, and the second which was interesting but not especially novel if as familiar with martial arts revenge and/or historical films as I am. A Man and a Woman had most of the elements of Korean storytelling that I love, and a few nicely steamy scenes, but ultimately was about adult aloneness, a theme I very much relate to.

Dong Ju: Portrait of a PoetThis is a telling of the talented Korean poet Yun DongJu, who lived and died in jail quite young, during the time of the Korean Independence Movement. Kang Ha Neul was my draw to this film, but also stills I had come across that displayed artistry and care. This was a case where I wanted to see more of his life outside of jail than the film offered, but wanting to see more does not at all constitute a negative review.

Up where the seasons pass,
the sky is filled with autumn.
In this untroubled quietude
I could almost count these autumn-couched stars.
But why I cannot now enumerate
those one or two stars in my breast
is because the dawn is breaking soon,
and I have tomorrow night in store,
and because my youth is not yet done.
Memory for one star,
love for another star,
sorrow for another star,
longing for another star,
poetry for another star,
and oh! mother for another star.
Mother! I try to call each star by some such evocative word, names of school children with whom I shared desks, names of alien girls like Pai, Kyunh, Ok, names of maidens who have already become mothers, names of neighbors who lived in poverty, names of birds and beasts like pigeon, puppy, rabbit, donkey, deer,and names of poets like Francis, Jammes and Reiner Maria Rilke.
They are as far away
and intangible as the stars.
You too are in the distant land of the Manchus.
Because I have a secret yearning,
seated on this star-showered bank,
I have written my name thereon
and covered it with earth.
In truth, it is because the insects chirp
all night to grieve over my bashful name.
But spring shall come to my stars after winter’s delay,
greening the turf over the graves,
so this bank that buries my name
shall proudly wear the grass again.
-Yun DongJu


 The Handmaiden I hadn’t seen the BBC adaptation of this novel, nor read The Fingersmith in the first place. I was simply curious about the buzz, and to find out what ‘the twist’ would be. No disappointment! This is a “not for everyone” film. It is disturbing, redemptive, and goes beyond ‘sexy’ sex scenes.


The Mini Series


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – It was no small feat to make an 8-episode series out of an over 1000 page book, and definitely no small feat to make it well, considering the book’s grand magical elements, which >whew< turned out visually and emotionally fitting for the world and story. 

The trickiest part for adaptation of the book must lay in the novel’s genius footnotes, some of which take up entire pages. Those footnotes contain much of the cheeky humor and were my largest concern when news of the mini-series first broke.  I still can’t quite believe they pulled it off, but the film feels like the book – quite distinctly English – while standing on its own, and takes nothing from my desire to read the novel again and again. 

Beauty Inside

I felt fortunate this weekend, to find The Beauty Inside, a film whose title I kept coming across when I looked for other kinds of information. So many top actors starring in the same film?

beauty inside

Woo-Jin wakes up truly new every morning, in a body he cannot predict… one that may be a beautiful man, an older ajumma, young child, ordinary lady, etc. He builds a life, hones a talent, while never investing too deeply with others.

The film dances beautiful edges, and we come to believe in the many strong underlying connections between the two lovers, transcending appearance, although sadly, in some ways the film still plays quite safe, and can be insensitive at times.

Still, the blind spots didn’t leave me wanting on the whole. It was a soft and fluid film, meaningful, and strangely realistic for the premise, which could have gone so… wrong.


It’s Okay


Due to little interest in new releases, I’ve been going back to re-watch the shows that come to mind often. My re-viewing this time is It’s Okay That’s Love, a compassionate and modern story that deals with a wide-ish spectrum of mental illness. Each character has a secret try to keep hidden, from themselves mainly, but is led toward openness and uncomfortable honesty, which I would call the main hope.

Much of the drama takes place in a shared house situation, where lines between private and public knowledge are paper thin. Very little is off limits, or dealt with in a charged way, which is playfully symbolized by house members often reaching into one another’s food.  Rather, there is a refreshing matter-of-factness between people, without expectations of perfection. In some ways it is a teachy drama, but not preachy. One friend said that it actually made her a better person.

I do dream of a world that aspires to understand the way others are eventually understood in this fictional universe of supportive intentional networks.

In one scene, two from the shared house are eavesdropping on a lovers quarrel outside, but their act is not intrusive. The reasons are rooted in loving responsibility for one another, and expected by those eavesdropped on within the larger context. One character is a young barista with Tourette’s Syndrome, and the other an elder Chief Psychiatrist with lingering feelings from a long-over divorce; they are the best of friends.

facing myselfIn the hospital, we meet a patient kept for treatment because she keeps returning to a home where she suffers physical abuse – parents and siblings not accepting her expression of gender. She doesn’t understand why she is kept for treatment until forced to take a long look at her most recent injuries.

It is self-harm to go back into brutal situations, even a sign of suicidal tendencies. Common sense, yet I hadn’t seen that before. That particular bit of wisdom about what constitutes self-harm must mean a lot to the writer, because it appears again and again in other scenarios, including that of the main patient in the show, who dissociates due to torturous guilt and misplaced sense of responsibility.

And then, there is the honest feeling but bumpy romance at center. Missing the magic, becomes the magic.

show and tell

This is complimentary material to an autobiography I’ve been making my way through, written by a woman who calls herself a cured schizophrenic. According to medical definitions this is impossible, however writing during the early part of the book takes us into her affliction in such a raw-yet-sensible way that it is hard to doubt recovery.

Perhaps we need to change our notions of recovery altogether.


Tastes are becoming serious again, prompting a return to deeper subject matter. If I were to track trends, I might find seasonal patterns to my viewing habits, with stagnant heat and humidity characterizing the last few months, and too much time indoors during what for many is the most outdoorsy and playful time of year. Our puppy’s separation anxiety has been a challenge too, leaving openings for only short jaunts away from home.

[spoilers – Melancholia]

After years of initial recommendation, I settled in to watch the film Melancholia last night. Intrigued by the premise of the world’s end, which many of us seem to be thinking a lot about, and by questions at the film’s center sparked by the maker’s history with depression, I finally decided to give in.

Sure enough, I came away with a feeling of relief, even lightheartedness–not because the film was a happy one–but because the main character’s behavior made sense. Her sense of validation and rescue from being “the crazy one” in the middle of more seemingly well-adjusted people, read like an other side looking back kind of work… a bit of a ghost story.

I watched the film Hannah Arendt before that, which I’m sure affected impressions, contemplating the nature of evil and the world. One line I especially appreciated, when she was confronted by a dear friend who could no longer accept her after she suggested the Holocaust could not have been so orderly without cooperation from some Jewish leaders. I’m not qualified to comment on that, because even after significant study, it still falls under the category of “no way to know” for me. What I imagine is that people had all sorts of coping mechanisms and ways they felt sure they had to contort themselves and others to get by. And that so many did not get by, remains the bottom line.

But the sentence, that was actually a paper excerpt historically, is, “I don’t love any people (on the whole, as a group); I love my friends.”

She was writing from a broad perspective, truly trying to understand what had happened, not being controversial for fame’s sake. The film did a good job of showing her situatedness as a scholar as the identity she was most faithful to, and a good job in showing the reasons why even a close friend could not abide her position. Why it was also right not to.

That choice cost her a lot and somewhat overshadowed the truly profound main point that she made about Adolf Eichmann’s lack of thinking and obedience to orders being more effective in carrying out evil than maniacal power lust. Bureaucracy and the “banality of evil.”

The films fit together well.