Friday, August 21, 2009

Films that are woven into my life: The Heiress

Watched The Heiress and remembered again how much I loved this flick. It's the best production of Washington Square by Henry James I have ever seen. As I watched it, I realized how it has affected me. Not only me but my writing. Heck, the book didn't touch me as much. And the 90's version was soooo simplistic.I think it was the film that made me a fan of Olilvia de Havilland.

What's great about this film is -- oh gee, there are so many great things about this film-- how utterly heartwrenching it is, its depiction of raw emotional pain, and how it shows the complexity of emotion. I looove depictions of bare emotion. As I watched this film again, I realized how much of Wind Follower I owe to it (and how much of CT I owe to Of Human Bondage --the book and the movie--...but that's another story.) Okay, so yeah, I like seeing some poor character's heart get wrenched. I like stories where wounded folks attempt to accept being loved. Ah, the sorrow and the travail.

Anyway, this movie has popped up in my life several times as a whetstone on which to judge the character, heart, and intelligence of some o my friends. One friend showed me how utterly cynical she was. Or maybe she just wasn't a lit major. Henry James' characters are an interesting mix of greed, class issues, personal emotional issues. The Heiress does a great job of showing this. But this particular friend completely lacked the ability to see and accept the complexity. As a trained lit major, I was okay with accepting the fortune-hunter as Catherine's husband. The way I figured it: he loved her and he loved her money. My friend couldn't see the love. Actually, she was pretty rigid all the way down. She misunderstood the subtlety of the film and saw the father as "trying to protect his daughter," saw the maid as "trying to bribe for a night out," etc. It was hard watching the film with her.

Another friend had a shallowness streak: When she saw the film -- although the actress is Olivia de Havilland-- she leaped backward: "What an ugly woman!" she said.

Ah, I love this film.


And of course my cynical rigid non-lit-major friend thought the ending was perfect. I thought: Catherine has killed her soul.

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