Sunday, November 6, 2011

'Possession' Open Thread


   What did you think?


  1. Movie trailer.

  2. It might be a couple days yet for me to get this, due to the idiosyncracies of the mail transport, ships passing in the night and so forth, but it looks like a good one!

  3. You'd better just assume there will be SPOILERS here, even though I don't know how much I'll try to say about this movie tonight. I've just finished it -- it is, indeed, a good one, although I don't know whether what I take away from it is what was intended. Seductive; searingly Romantic -- and that's just the flashbacks. Maybe it's just as well not everyone has watched it yet -- I should probably process quite a bit more before I begin blathering.

  4. But I do have to dig out my fountain pen, even if it is just the cartridge type, and not a real one.

  5. “Blackadder was fifty-four and had come to editing Ash out of pique. He was the son and grandson of Scottish schoolmasters. His grandfather recited poetry on firelight evenings: Marmion, Childe Harold, Ragnarok. His father sent him to Downing College in Cambridge to study under F. R. Leavis. Leavis did to Blackadder what he did to serious students; he showed him the terrible, the magnificent importance and urgency of English literature and simultaneously deprived him of any confidence in his own capacity to contribute to, or change it. The young Blackadder wrote poems, imagined Dr Leavis’s comments on them, and burned them.”

    “They took to silence. They touched each other without comment and without progression. A hand on a hand, a clothed arm, resting on an arm. An ankle overlapping an ankle, as they sat on a beach, and not removed. One night they fell asleep, side by side...He slept curled against her back, a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase.”

    “We must come to grief and regret anyway - and I for one would rather regret the reality than its phantasm, knowledge than hope, the deed than the hesitation, true life and not mere sickly potentialities.”

    “They did go on so, don't you think, those Victorian poets, they took themselves so horribly seriously?' he said, pushing the lift button, summoning it from the depths. As it creaked up, Blackadder said, 'That's not the worst thing a human being can do, take himself seriously.”

    “You do not seem aware, for all of your knowledge of the great world I do not frequent, of the usual response which the productions of the Female Pen--let alone as in our case, the *hypothetick* productions--are greeted with. The best we may hope is--oh, it is excellently done--*for a woman.* And then there are Subjects we may not treat--things we may not know...We are not mere candleholders to virtuous thoughts--mere chalices of Purity--we think and feel, aye and *read*--which seems not to shock *you* in us, in me, though I have concealed from many the extent of my--vicarious--knowledge of human vagaries. Now--if there is a reason for my persistence in this correspondence--it is this very unawareness in you--real or assumed--of what a woman must be supposed to be capable of. This is to me--like a strong Bush, well-rooted is to the grasp of one falling down a precipice--here I hold--here I am stayed--”

    When I get lost in this sort of writing, it takes me days before I even want to find the way out. Never show me a Holodeck. You'll have to cut the power to see me again.

  6. he showed him the terrible, the magnificent importance and urgency of English literature and simultaneously deprived him of any confidence in his own capacity to contribute to, or change it. The young Blackadder wrote poems, imagined Dr Leavis’s comments on them, and burned them.

    Oh, the irony. I deleted my comment about how difficult it is, after a film about people in love with the language, to write about it as well as you wish you could -- to be so hopelessly insufficient that you're afraid of even looking as though you tried...

    And, Heaven help me, it turns out there's a novel.

    Darrell, these quotes are so beautiful, beyond enticing. Did you read the novel first? or did seeing the movie set you on to it?

  7. I started watching the movie first. Then I had to pause it and start researching A.S. Byatt a bit more--until that jogged my memory and I realized that I had already owned the paperback version of the book and had just started to read it when it was "borrowed" from me and never returned. I paused the movie because I couldn't let the words pass without getting to know them intimately and some of the words were getting lost because of my hearing issues.

    And I swear I once wrote something very similar to " ...a dark comma against her pale elegant phrase” in high school. Until my American Lit teacher took me aside after class and told me it read like "her teeth were like stars that come out at night" to her and perhaps I should lighten up, just a bit, before pointing out that all the girls in the class where snickering whilst I was reading my story out loud.. . I think the next thing I wrote and read aloud that year was "Scott The Mammoth Beaver"--just a coincidence, mind you, that the jerk that sat next to me in class and insulted me daily even though he didn't know me was named "Scott," mind you. The same Scott that no matter how unoriginal his contribitions were had all the girls raising their hands to praise him when it came to critiquing time.

  8. And for you Dear Cathy--

    “I am a creature of my pen. My pen is the best of me.”
    ― A.S. Byatt, Possession

  9. I'm going to speak in generalities and compare the book with the movie--until James finishes watching. The movie is a remarkable abridged version of the story in the book. You'll see a lot of criticism saying that it isn't, but the only things excised are irrelevant to the main story or reinforcements of points that are covered in the movie. Yes, they trimmed major characters. But the characters eliminated [Roland's girlfriend and Maud's lesbian friend] just mirror Ash's wife and Christabel's lover, just as Roland and Maud mirror
    Randolph Ash and Christabel La Motte. We get the point. They also eliminate most of the story about The Melusina--a mythical "mermaid" or half-serpent/half-woman creature the provides inspiration for Christabel's life's work after the birth of her child--and perhaps the explanation for her life choices then. The book does flesh out the character of Roland Michell much more than the movie and provides a better basis for his budding relationship with Maud Bailey--but at 576 pages, it certainly has more room to do so. The movie asks you to trust that there is something there and I can certainly do that. I suspect that there was a lot left on the cutting room floor when the studio decided to give it less than two hours. Our loss. But don't we have to suspend disbelief with most film romances? Do we ever have enough time to see the spark believably become the flame? I mean in a film not starring Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn.

    About the book. Do buy it if you decide to make a full commitment to Christabel La Motte--the whole love, honor and cherish package instead of the Summer tryst of the movie. The book creates the whole body of her life's work--not just poems and fragments relevant to the plotline, like a typical novel would. There are also other mysteries to be solved along the way--like who was the real-life model for her character. You may read that it was Christina Rossetti--but that is incorrect [and based upon A. S. Byatt's statements when she BEGAN the book--the error appears in Wiki] This isn't a spoiler for the movie, but the model is Emily Dickinson. Ash is, of course, Robert Browning. But to solve that puzzle definitively, you have to become not only a Dickinson scholar, but a Rossetti scholar as well. It's in hundreds of trivial clues such as La Motte calling her father "Papa." [Dickinson did, Rosetti didn't] Or that La Motte's grandmother's name was Emilie--something Dickinson used on her own between age seventeen to thirty-one. Yeah, who doesn't know these things? As for the Melusina business, you are asked to not only learn about La Motte's take on the legend presented in twelve volumes of an epic poem [mostly, not all included], you are asked to become an expert in all the European variants of the tale, from the castle in France where her version of the tale was first transcribed--later amended by visiting writers throughout the millennia [and you see those, too] to the versions of the Celts and Northern Europeans--to the Lady of Shalott of Arthurian legend and Tennyson's much later poem.

    All-in-all, the only comparison with A.S. Byatt's "Possession" would be something like Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings." The only thing she doesn't include is her own language. The only way she could top it would be to come up with a novel about a book novelist and include five or six major novels, representing his life's body of work as an aside or an appendix. "Possession" could easily make a graduate-level college course with a requisite of Dickinson and Rosetti, at minimum. It probably already is somewhere.

  10. the girls in the class where snickering whilst I was reading my story out loud

    How many poems, how many bits of lovely prose, are torn up and thrown away, not because they are not beautiful enough, but because they are too beautiful?

    I suppose we like to have easy categories for the individuals in our worlds, and we fight anything that might force us to reconsider the assignments we've made. Especially when we are young, and therefore at our wisest. ;)

  11. "It was important to both of them that the touching should not proceed to any kind of fierceness or deliberate embrace. They felt that in some way this stately peacefulness of unacknowledged contact gave back their sense of their separate lives inside separate skins. Speech, the kind of speech they knew, would have undone it."

    “…words have been all my life, all my life--this need is like the Spider's need who carries before her a huge Burden of Silk which she must spin out--the silk is her life, her home, her safety--her food and drink too--and if it is attacked or pulled down, why, what can she do but make more, spin afresh, design anew….”

    “Vocabularies are crossing circles and loops. We are defined by the lines we choose to cross or to be confined by.”

    “What literature can and should do is change the people who teach the people who don't read the books.”

    “There are things that happen and leave no discernible trace, are not spoken or written of, though it would be very wrong to say that subsequent events go on indifferently, all the same, as though such things had never been.”

    “Art does not exist for politics, or for instruction- it exists primarily for pleasure, or it is nothing.”

    “There were times when [he] allowed himself to see clearly that he would end his working life, that was to say, his conscious thinking life, in this task, that all his thoughts would have been another man's thoughts, all his work another man's work. And then he thought it did not perhaps matter so greatly... It was a pleasant subordination, if he was a subordinate.”

    “Think of me if you will as the Lady of Shalott . . . who chooses to watch diligently the bright colours of her Web - to ply an industrious shuttle - to make - something - to close the Shutters and the Peephole too -”

    “Literary critics make natural detectives.”

    "We know we are driven by desire, but we can't see it as they did, can we? We never say the word Love, do we -- we know it's a suspect ideological construct -- especially Romantic Love -- so we have to make a real effort of imagination to know what it felt like to be them, here, believing in these things -- Love -- themselves -- that what they did mattered."

    "He saw the tree, the fruit, the fountain, the woman, the grass, the serpent, single and multifarious in form. He heard Ash's voice, certainly his voice, his own unmistakable voice, and he heard the language moving around, weaving its own patterns, beyond the reach of any single human, writer or reader. He heard Vico saying that the first men were poets and the words were names that were also things, and he heard his own strange, necessary meaningless lists ," and "he laughed aloud. Ash had started him on this quest and he had found the clue he had started with, and all was cast off, the letter, the letters, Vico, the apples, his list."

    See, Cathy? There is hope! Roland Michell, who once burned his poems is ready to share his work with the world, ready to add his mark to the English literature. I suspect he has a blog out there...somewhere.

  12. Well, a very nice show with intriguing aspects in regards to literature, of which I am poorly disposed to help you with, though I would like to take a crack at "Scott the Mammoth Beaver."

    That Aaron Erkhart is a handsome rascal. And Jennifer Ehle has such eyes, when she smiles they light up the room. But it was Jeremy Northam that made the film for me. His bookend reading of verse both at the opening and the close of the film were things of beauty. Such a gentle, moving voice, and such elegant delivery.

    I absolutely adored the close of the film. All through the movie's slow reveal of a love long lost in time, those that searched learned at last that the poet had a daughter, and in the mind of his love he had died never knowing it. But then that stretch of verse is read again...

    “There are things that happen and leave no discernible trace, are not spoken or written of, though it would be very wrong to say that subsequent events go on indifferently, all the same, as though such things had never been.”

    And there he is walking across a sunny hillside, seeking out Christabel LaMotte in hopes to make amends, and instead he comes across a young girl, and the exchange they had was so wonderful. Jeremy Notham is a remarkable actor, and the feeling he conveyed in that scene, the realization, his enormous love for her, the pleasure he took in doing the small favor she asked, and the long look he gave her as she walked away, the little wave she gave him before disappearing beyond the knoll, and the feeling he expressed with the look of his face... it was extraordinarily beautiful.

    An excellent choice, Darrell.

  13. My pleasure, James.

    I'm glad you mentioned that scene with Ash meeting his daughter for the first and last time.
    That--and the scene with Christabel were she acknowledges that she is ready for physical love without words--with just the look that says it all--are the two reasons that everyone should see this film. Your scene with Ash is also one of incredible sadness as his daughter gets distracted by her stinky "brothers" and she drops the letter Ash wrote to Christabel, thereby removing all chance that he would ever spend time with either Christabel or May again. Fate--from a time when people respected another's wishes no matter the pain they themselves suffered.

    It's no mystery that I love this film. It is a mystery why it's not regarded highly. One of the hardest jobs I have ever done was produce summaries and executive summaries of research reports that put a collection of New York City phone books to shame. Producing that one page (or less) executive summary from so much took ever ounce of talent I possessed. This film does exactly that from A.S. Byatt's monumental work. It is the kiss that beckons the viewer to experience the book to fulfill the promise of the kiss. If I were younger, I might say that I could never be with a woman that didn't love this film--if only a little. I'm sure womanhood is thinking "dentures" to my "her teeth are like stars that come out at night" of that statement right now. No matter. This film is also a love letter, visually, to the English countryside as well. That alone should have provided the word of mouth to make this film a commercial success (it took in about half of it cost to make--before DVD sales). Sigh. If I were Winston Churchill I might also say that I question the heart of any man that didn't fall in love with both Gwyneth Paltrow
    Jennifer Ehle at this point, but alas I'm not. Give Gwynie a break for Pete's sake! She is of British ancestry and she does live there and I think she does her accents well. Yes, I know her politics and I can guess Maud Bailey's but still.

    Hmmm, yes, back to the film. The complete cast was wonderdul--even supporting players. Little things, like that tall, blond, manager at the Bay Hotel in Witney, Yorkshire, that says "I'm sure it's more complicated than I can imagine" when Maud and Roland are contemplating the single bed.
    Or Toby Stephens as Fergus Wolfe attempting to fireproof from any future spark by describing Maud Bailey in such unflattering terms to Roland prior to their first meeting. Yes, we want to see more of everybody and everything, but remember this is just the first kiss.

    Like this review. More in response to your thoughts later after they are revealed.

    Presumptously yours,

  14. P.S. Please forgive the clumsy typing fingers and the lack of proofreading! Or picture the herd of monkeys laboring to produce that comment, if you prefer. You can imagine that they require a gin ration that way, I being a civilzed man and all.

  15. The English countryside... yes, it was magnificently photographed, whether at the rugged coast or the rolling fields around the Bailey's estate, it was very beautiful. At times I wished the camera lingered a tad longer, but it was lovely. I thought Aaron Eckhart gave a fine performance as a serious student with a certain trouble to his past, which he is unwilling to speak of at any length. His converstaion with Maud along the rocky beach after their misunderstanding the night before...

    "Maud, I think that you are very....

    ... you know?"

    So little said, so unable to say what he really wanted to communicate to her. It sounds almost silly on the printed page here, but the markedly awkward and clumsy nature of delivery was perfect for him. As his interests and writings showed, there was a lot more to him than what people were willing to venture on first inspection, and he kept that hidden from them. His brief responses to her assertion that they must be friends..

    "Yeah... that's a lot"

    and then the very brief

    "Yeah... that's perfect"

    .. all while a marked sadness was upon his face, sadness and resignation, with a hope for a friendship worth giving up on love for, that was well done.

    As to Gwyneth Paltrow, she was very fine as well, and lovely of course. My word, did you happen to notice her wearing a white turtleneck sweater? No argument from me. A very lovely woman.

  16. While we wait for Cathy's ultimate take on all of this--or for her to actually find an ink cartridge for her pen at the store or regain access to her computer from her nieces--let me just add a few thoughts about the movie and the novel.

    Yes, what Ash did was wrong. He should have lived up to the vows he made to his wife. He even renewed those vows during the film when his wife was apologizing to him for not giving him children, and apparently, denying him a physical relationship (although he cut her off before she could complete the last thought.) He did suffer in this life from Chistabel's absence and the loss of his daughter, but he caused Ellen Ash to share that same Purgatory.

    As for Christabel, the film did show her living separate from the world but didn't give much of an explanation. Remember when I told you about "The Lady Of Shalott" and what they call her "fairies" in the film, the Melusina? When in the Arthurian legend(s), The Lady of Shalott lived in a small castle by the side of the main road to Camelot that featured a prominent three-story tower with prominent windows that gave her the perfect view of travelers going to and fro. The only problem was that she was cursed to never actually be of this world--she couldn't even view it directly--she sat at a loom in the tower weaving the finest tapestries the world had ever known while viewing the "world" through her mirrors. One day she spotted Sir Lancelot and was so taken with him that she ignored her curse--she looked at him directly through her window. As there was a stream along side her little castle that lead to Camelot, she got in her little boat attempting to meet him, but according to the varying legends she died--either as an extremely old woman in line with her indeterminate age--or as a young woman whose life force started draining the moment she looked directly at Lancelot. Christabel identified with The Lady of Shallott as to not being of this world and that is why she lived her life in isolation. Which does make accepting that dinner party invitation where she first met Ash a little strange. Not to mention Blanche Glover.


  17. The Melusina bit is a lot harder to summarize (twelves volumes, remember?) but she was part of God's original creation, before man, along with the angels and those other creatures covered in early Jewish scripture but not in the Christian Bible--including giants, Lilith, and the like. The Flood purged most because they threatened man's existence, but left Melusina's ancestors untouched because she was immortal--perhaps even possessing "powers." That was said to be rectified by making them non-corporeal, seen by men only as shadows and heard only as voices or sounds in the night. From the woman's studies perspective, "stinky" men wrote about them being evil when in actually they were the pure feminine operating to their own agenda. Legend has it that
    they wre offered humanity--a Soul and mortal death
    in exchange for adhering to certain conditions including keeping their secret, marrying, and obeying the Commandments. In Melusina's case, she
    reverted to her true form for a few hours each week and she had to secure a promise from her spouse to honor this alone time, every Saturday night. He agreed. After many years, curiosity got the better of him and he ventured to her secret room in the castle's basement where he encountered a locked door with no openings to peer through. He became so frustrated after failing to open it or gain a view that he poked a hole in the door with his sword and saw that she was bathing while flipping her mermaid's tail in her pool. Rather than keeping it to himself (she was human when she was with him), he confronted her and that caused her to revert to her true form forever and back to her less-than-corporeal state. She could only visit her children at night when they heard her wails in the wind. Men always broke their vows to Melusina's ancestors and now the one she loved did it to her. Christabel learned the legend(s) living in France periodically as a child. Ash vowed to have that one month "lifetime" with her and never ask for any more time, and he broke that vow demanding more. She was separated from her child. She was again no longer of this world.

    The film screws up when Maud Bailey describes Christabel as her grandmother, thrice (generationally) removed. Wouldn't that imply that Christabel had a child?
    She should have thought that she was related to LaMotte's sister (book) or cousin (movie), right?
    Or am I missing something? The revelation at the movie's end should have made her ecstatic--hearing for the first time that she was directly related to not only Ash, but Christabel. And by the way, all of them--Christabel, May, and Maud were supposed to have had light blond hair. I know why they didn't ask Jennifer Ehle to make a change.

    Any way, just some more thoughts--during the wait.

  18. I am sorry to have been "away" so long -- and I'm afraid the little I can add to our discussion will not be worth the wait!

    It's been wonderful getting caught up on all the comments (although I shouldn't have read Darrell's notes about the book until I had said my piece about the movie! Knowing that the movie is a summary (masterfully done as it may be) of the novel, learning more and more about the incredible richness of the source material, I'm becoming a harsh judge of the film -- only because they left out so much of the wonder of Byatt's story-telling.)

    The movie is beautiful. Scenery, settings, costumes, and cast -- all beautiful. I loved seeing Blanches' studio, her gorgeous painting, Cristabel in medieval splendor; beautiful, and a clear insight into the Romantic view of their lives and their work that the women shared.

    Romantic in philosophy, immersed in the stuff of legends and myths, cherishing the ideals of Beauty and Love, Honor and Loyalty -- and equally fascinated by Betrayal and Faithlessness, Atonement and Redemption -- did the tragedy of Cristabel and Blanche's relationship coincidentally mirror the stories of ancient lovers, or did their embrace of their artistic influences inform their own lives, their perceptions of the paths available to them, their most profound choices?

    Cristabel believes that she and Ash can have a miniature lifetime in the miniature world they inhabit in Yorkshire for their stolen month, but she is as unrealistic about how she herself may be affected as she is about how this time out of time will affect others. Even without the pregnancy, she would have been significantly changed, and the changes she had undergone since corresponding with Ash, even before she knew herself to be in love with him, had already caused Blanche -- the person to whom she had committed her life -- terrible sorrow and distress.

    Conversely, we see almost nothing of Ash's wife, and what little we do learn of her seems only to have been included to keep Ash a sympathetic character when he decides to betray her. Ash's decisions regarding the relationship he pursues with Cristabel appear to be completely independent of the existence of a wife, a marriage. And we aren't shown how the affaire affected Ellen Ash; we only know that, in spite of the month away, in spite of Ash's pursuit of Cristabel when they return from Yorkshire, in spite of his seeking her out again some years later (when he meets his child), Ellen is still at his side -- honoring his privacy, allowing him his secrets, even after his death. I am inclined to say that here is the truly Noble character, but she is treated as little more than a prop, and so seems dismissed as a doormat.

    But we are all at least a bit romantic, and their love story is so movingly told, so we want Cristabel and Ash to have their month, their lifetime in miniature, and we are happy when Cristabel is ready to consummate the affaire. It is all too beautiful to resist.



    Maud Bailey and Roland Michell's love story seems rather short-changed, especially in comparison. The shared academic background, the shared passion for the history of their heroes, the shared adventure with its mysteries and its risks, all combine to create their attraction and interest. But we learn more about each of their disinclinations to become involved than we see reasons for them to try, so it seems premature for Maud to commit herself to the possibilities at the wrap-up of their story. Having seen movies before, I was pretty sure they'd end up together :) and I wanted them to move through their fears and old wounds, but I didn't feel that their romance was built as convincingly as it might have been.

    Gwyneth Paltrow has a kind of age-old loveliness shared by few of her contemporaries -- Jennifer Ehle being one of those few! -- and both were wonderful in their roles, somewhat alike in their successes, but so different in their belief in themselves. Jeremy Northam was perfect as the poet and man, and I really enjoyed Aaron Eckhart's portrayal of excited ambition and painful uncertainty. Jim, I loved your remark about his hope for a friendship worth giving up on love for.

    (I feel kinda bad, I didn't even recognize that Fergus Wolfe was played by our Mr. Rochester!)

    Darrell, I have to tell you: ever since you got me started looking into the novel, which sounds unimaginably rich, I've been trying to find a way to describe the movie in relation to it, the obvious comparison of it being a long trailer for the book falling terribly short. Your calling it a kiss is perfect, of course; delightful in itself, but so full of promise...

    I want so much to read the book now -- partly to have the full stories of all of the principals, partly to learn every detail of the mythic world Byatt created. The only questions is, can I trust myself to read only a bit here and there until I really have more time (life with elderly parents has just become much more, um, full), or should I just put the book on my list for Santa, so I can't even be tempted until after the holidays? Maybe if I just watch the movie again, that will tide me over for a while...

  20. Christabel identified with The Lady of Shallott as to not being of this world and that is why she lived her life in isolation. Which does make accepting that dinner party invitation where she first met Ash a little strange. Not to mention Blanche Glover.

    This is so interesting -- so I'm going to take a dreadfully uninformed guess, and suggest that Cristabel's relationship with Blanch is her "curse," the reason she must live apart from the world. And like the Lady of Shalott's glimpse of Lancelot, the invitation to the gathering where she may meet another poet she admires is the temptation that draws Cristabel out of her sanctuary, and begins the destruction of the life she has created. It does not result in a physical death, but in a long existence with none of the loves which might have given her joy -- Blanch's, Ash's, or her child's.

    Would she have seen Ash if she had received the letter he gave their child? I don't think so; I think she would have denied them both any more occasional happiness: she may have shouted her accusation that he "made her a murderess," but she knew that Blanche killed herself over the choices she herself had made, and needed to make a life of atonement.

  21. Oh, too many pronouns.

    ... Blanche killed herself over the choices (Cristabel) herself had made...

  22. Is there doubt in anyone's mind that Roland Michell and Maud Bailey would actually fulfill Randolph Henry Ash"s and Christabel LaMotte's
    promise of love everlasting? I'm sensing there is. That bit about friendship applied to that moment. When she said it was "no big deal" [referring to making love] he was thinking "it's the biggest deal of my life." He knew even then that this was different than all his past relationships and he had to get this one right--from the very start. He knew he had to change his way of thinking and finally open himself up to real love, love that you keep alive at all costs.
    And this time all vows made to Maud [today's Melusina] would be kept. Hopefully.

    In the book, Maud and Roland were in separate rooms that shared a common bathroom at one point shortly after meeting for the first time, and Roland peeked through the bathroom's keyhole to make sure it was clear while not disturbing her, if it wasn't--mirroring what Melusina's husband had done with his sword. You need a good memory with the book to pick up on that given the hundreds of pages that separate the clues. But now you know without the wait.

  23. Ooooo! Passing comments.
    Great catch, Cathy! You could say that Blanche was Christabel's "lifeforce," her connection to
    humanity/the real world. Hey, let's start a "womens' studies" program! You'll have to front for it, though.

  24. Blanche is also her tapestry. Her "Polaroid" of the real world that she abandons.

  25. You could say that Blanche was Christabel's "lifeforce,

    Noo... It was Blanche who could not exist without Cristabel -- she didn't believe she had any possibilities left in the world once Cristobel left her to have the baby.

    The end of the happy, productive "shared solitude" of their life together, the dishonesties and manipulations and wretched scenes that devoured the contentment they had once had, the dire reality of unwed motherhood and the self-imposed exile that it brought, Blanche's sad, lonely, slow death (for it began before she sewed the first stone into her skirt) -- these are the ruin and destruction, the "death," that resulted from Cristabel's being tempted back into the world.

    I am no expert on Arthurian Romance in general, or The Lady of Shalott in particular, but these ancient stories, much like the grim (no pun intended) fairy tales we grew up on, were allegories and metaphors, if not direct lessons, about life. It's very possible that The Lady of Shalott is a
    cautionary tale, a warning for young woman against leaving boundaries (physical, or convention-al) established around them. (You take off after the local Lancelot, you may not die in your boat, but don't count on being able to reclaim the life you had.)

    Not to worry -- there were plenty of lessons for boys, too. ;)

  26. Hey! No fair! We were playing the game of "Parallels" and there are only eight choices in the legend of The Lady of Shalott--The LOS, the castle/tower, the windows, the mirrors, the loom, the tapestries, the boat, and the "lifeforce." Instead you make me look silly by perfectly describing the relationship and the reasons behind Blanche's suicide [which I knew but left unsaid] instead of playing one of the eight cards! Don't expect me to stick around if I ever see you pulling out a game box! ;-)

    I think I'll play the "loom" card for Blanche instead because the loom makes those pretty "pictures" and Blanche was the artist.

    On a serious note, though, the fact of the matter is that all the "fatal" wounds in this story are self-inflicted. Christabel [correct spelling, btw]
    was neither The Lady of Shalott, nor Melusina's issue. If Blanche had done nothing, more than likely Christabel would have returned to her. Christabel could have raised her child in Brittany
    on her own after simply creating a cover story--as many did at this time--of a quick marriage and a tragic death of her spouse. Average life expectancy was in the high-30s in 1837 for good reason. If not disease, "hubby" could have fallen over the railing on the boat ride over for all anyone knew. All very easy to do in the days before computers and electronic tracks. The Ash's--both Randolph and Ellen could have been involved in the child's life as concerned friends and benefactors especially if she continued to live in France. Instead of rolling with the punches of life, we have the characters constructing artificial and arbitrary Hells and voluntarily committing themselves to their constructs, all for some fictional--one could call silly-- "romantic" notions. But enough of being a wet rag. . .

  27. C h ristabel, huh? And I thought I was doing well leaving out the "o"!

    Instead of rolling with the punches of life, we have the characters constructing artificial and arbitrary Hells and voluntarily committing themselves to their constructs, all for some fictional--one could call silly-- "romantic" notions.

    Absolutely! Blanche may have been off-balance to begin with, and despair over betrayal and loss are hardly exclusive to the Artist. But, not having the greater detail of the novel, I have to wonder how much Christabel's voluntarily separating herself from her child (although keeping her in range, as an "aunt,") was due to her desire that Ash never discover the existence of the child, and how much to the sadly romanticized idea of atonement.

    But the child was happy, and given that she was the one who never got to vote on any of it, that's OK by me.

  28. Well said, Cathy.

    The film's/book's title speaks to Blanche's problem, I think. Maybe we can each add other comment here after Santa brings you yours in your Stocking. Make sure it's one of those big ones though!

    I took a chance at Amazon with one of those used books sellers and a "like new" copy. At less than $3 (sorry, European readers), only the shipping or around the same (sorry European readers) seemed to be excessive--Capitalism at its finest.

  29. The film's/book's title speaks to Blanche's problem

    This needs to be clarified. Not just Blanche's problem. I'm referring to people being possessed by that certain madness of love that seeks to control the object of their affection.

  30. I've just realised that I have a copy of this film, and started watching it once but fell asleep. (No reflection at all on the film: I was just really tired.)
    I can't remember a single thing about what I saw, so I'll give it another look. You have intrigued me.

  31. How lucky we are, Matthew!
    Now the wonderful Mrs. Coniam can join you on this fine Sunday. This is a movie to share if there ever was one. And we get to read two opinions--win-win!