Because both my husband and I tend to prefer going to a concert of an evening rather than attending the screening of a movie, our visits to the cinema are relatively few and far between. Due to a shortage of concerts we have, however, been to see a couple of movies recently, and I’m afraid that the experience has generally fallen short of our expectations.
Last week we saw ‘Suffragette,’ which portrayed the harsh life of a young woman in late 19th century or early 20th century London in the context of the struggle for women to obtain the right to vote, or suffrage as it was termed (hence the term ‘suffragettes’). The battle waged by women of all classes, led mainly by upper-class ladies in hats, was long and hard, ending only when the government of the time acceded to their demands towards the end of the First World War. The picture painted by the film was not a pretty one, giving prominence to the male prejudice and brutality that prevailed at the time, particularly among the working class. The high point of the film was the evident transformation undergone by the main character as she moved from being a downtrodden working housewife to an elegantly-dressed mature person. I wonder how much truth there was in that depiction of life at the time.
The film we saw this week, and which both the critics and the trailer that we had seen the previous week painted in glowing colours, was a very different kettle of fish. The main attraction, of course, was the actors, the once-gorgeous Charlotte Rampling and the less-gorgeous Tom Courtenay, both of them excellent thespians who once shone on stage and screen.
To be quite honest, it was no great pleasure to see close-ups of Rampling’s lined and aging face with its tired skin, sagging cheeks and bags under her eyes. Possibly it was all makeup, but I doubt it, though her figure is still pretty good. When I looked her up on the internet I was shocked to find that she is four years younger than I am. Tom Courtenay was never a great beauty, and the role he played in the film was that of a man who has experienced illness, and may perhaps even be a tiny bit confused, but that is beside the point.
My main criticism of the film is that it is achingly slow and thus verging on the boring. In fact, for the first half an hour I was convinced I was watching a film by Ingmar Bergman that happened to be in English, with minimal dialogue and barely-discernible undercurrents of emotion. Oh, how very British, I hear you cry, but still, who goes to the cinema for that?
The director of the film, Andrew Haigh, has taken pains to reconstruct the life and times of a very ordinary British couple living in a fairly ordinary cottage in the country and living a pretty ordinary life. The only ripple in their mundane existence (the discovery of the body of the husband’s former girlfriend) is nothing more than a minor storm in a very British teacup, and everything comes to an end, not with a bang but with an equally British whimper.
The real star of the film, however, is a huge alsation dog called Max. We see Rampling taking him for a walk across the fields every morning, we hear him panting happily on his return home and we both see and hear him whining anxiously when his mistress climbs the folding ladder to the loft. At times it seems as if he’s the only one in the film who shows some genuine emotion.