RSS
 

Archive for the ‘ACTING STYLE: Masterpiece Theatre Miniseries’ Category

Belle

18 May

Belle – directed by Amma Asante. Costume Drama. 109 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

The Story: A mulatto girl becomes the heiress of a great 18th Century British fortune and goes into politics.

~

“What a great big lovely movie!” I said to myself when it was done, and so it is. Produced in the best Masterpiece Theatre manner, with grand costumes in immense mansions and slightly postured dialogue delivered in the style of low emotional tremolo when feeling is required, it delivers full value as a costume drama.

A costume drama is a drama with no drama, only certain posits foregone. Will the mulatto daughter heiress marry right and well? Will her adopted father who is Chief Justice of The Realm come out on the proper side in the case of the drowned slaves? Will society ever accept her, illegitimate and chocolate as she is? Of course, of course, of course is the answer to these questions even as they are posed. And why?

Because no one is deeply engaged in any personal drama at all. People weep and shout, but so what? Is there ever a matter, inside any main character, which is virtually undecidable? Is there a character defect in any one of them (as there is, say, in Emma), that is tragic or virtually tragic? Is there a situation that goes deeper than a code or a social necessity or a decorum? Not really.

As it stands it might be but isn’t Tom Wilkinson’s story. For he, as the Chief Justice, is the one who may or may not set the entire world on a different course on the matter of slavery. But he is not given the scenes that would cut inside him as to how this momentous case reflects out from his relations with the black niece he has harbored. Certainly she is played well by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as is his wife played our belovèd Emily Watson, and his sister, Aunt Mary, played by the redoubtable Penelope Wilton.

But the forces of Costume Drama are arrayed against any such drama. And the story is handed over to the black girl, who actually is given nothing in the writing inside herself to play against. For the expectation is that, though an heiress, she can never marry, but must, like her Aunt Mary, become the spinster chatelaine of a vast estate. Oh horrors! Why is a woman’s fortune so meagerly thus! But, really, what we need to see is the real attractions there might be in becoming just like her aunt. Instead she is presented as the perfect heroine, fetching, pretty, bright, courageous, and startlingly adept at Scarlatti. And, of course, offered the handsomest man in the picture as a beau. He is very good. His name is Sam Reid.

Still, it is a wonderful picture of its kind – like Spielberg’s Lincoln – an overview of a single historical event – involving slavery — although less of a character study. You will not be wasting your time to see it; not at all; you will be informed and heartened. And finally know that slavery is wrong? No, that something worse is wrong: blind-heartedness. Blind-heartedness is wrong.

 
 
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button