Therese and Isabelle (1968) by Radley Metzger

In this post I discuss and link to the movie Therese and Isabelle (also known as Thérèse and Isabelle and Thérèse et Isabelle). It’s a 1968 French-American romantic drama film directed by Radley Metzger, and loosley based on the novel Thérèse et Isabelle by Violette Leduc. Two young girls meet and share affectionate intimacies in a European boarding school for girls. The movie is now available through archive.org.

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Violet Leduc (1907-1972) was French writer from a middle class family. She was born illegitimate and suffered from poor selfesteem as a young girl. Her relatives on the paternal side refused to recognize her. After the war, she went to a boarding school, the Collège de Douai, where she experienced a lesbian affair with her classmate “Isabelle”, which Leduc later adapted into the novel. I read an English translation of it which was a tideous experience. The novel was also censored for a long time.

Radley Metzger’s film adaptation of Thérèse et Isabelle have been generally favorable. IMDB.com presents the plot as following: “An older woman visits the boarding school of her youth after a 20 year absense. While strolling about the deserted grounds and classrooms she remembers her highly emotional experiences there, and well-executed flashbacks occur to her youth. At 17 she is abandoned by her loving mother because of remarriage and left at a European boarding school, disenchanted and lonely. Immediately she meets Isabell, an older, confident, rebellious girl. The two develop a friendship quickly without much conversation or bonding, but have the always temporary chemistry necessary for their friendship to progress into a sexual relationship. (…) Despite their undying love confessions to each other, Theresa wakes up one morning to find Isabelle has left the school, her room and desk replaced with another student. She never see’s Isabel again.” I can’t say I agree to everything in the quoted review. Even if I like the plot in the movie much more than the novel itself, the movie is sometimes too much with an unconvincing dialogue and Metzger’s intrepretation of lesbianism on the whole as a director becomes loathsome, or silly.

Therese and Isabelle (1968)

The movie available through archive.org

Sources

archive.org

imdb.com

wikipedia.org

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Charles Dickens – “A Christmas Carol” and a movie adaption from 1910

I guess you already know the story. The day before Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge refuses to contribute to the Charity Relief Committee, and then rudely rejects his nephew Fred when he visits Scrooge in his office. When Scrooge returns home, he sees the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, who warns him of the punishment he will suffer in the next life if he does not change his ways. That night, Scrooge is visited by three more spirits, who show him his past, present, and future him.

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Through the decades there has been numerous adaptions of Dicken’s famous story. A Christmas Carol was released on December 23, 1910 by the Edison Company. It was likely the first silent adaption of the story with English intertitles. Marc McDermott stars as Ebenezer Scrooge in this silent film version of Dickens’ classic ghost story, A Christmas Carol. About 10 minuets long.

Sources

archive.org
wikipedia.org

“Ozymandias” a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Today I’m going to write about a very famous poem called Ozymandias. This poem is so famous throughout the history of poetry it hits a high score on most lists involving any expertise on why and how it’s considered so good. Well, one may one how come any poetry written several hundred years ago. What can it possible tell us today? How can something considered to be so good be so hard to understand?

Context and themes

Ozymandias is a sonnet and was published in a well-known London-paper The Examiner on 11 of January in 1818. The poet was Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Ask yourself who do you think would like to hear this poem? Who is Ozymandias? He presents himself as the king of kings…this title is somewhat biblical, but fact is that in antiquity, Ozymandias (Ὀσυμανδύας) was a Greek name for pharaoh Ramesses II who ruled Egypt many hundreds of years before Christianity. Shelley started to write the poem in 1817, soon after the announcement of the British Museum’s acquisition of a large fragment of a statue of Ramesses II from the thirteenth century BCE, leading some scholars to believe that Shelley was inspired by this event. Shelley wrote the poem in friendly competition with poet Horace Smith (1779–1849), who also wrote a sonnet on the same topic with the same title.

Themes: hubris and time


Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Sources

Wikipedia.org (various entries)

“Eldorado” – A poem by Edgar A. Poe

Context: El Dorado means the Golden One in Spanish. Originally El Hombre Dorado (the golden man), or El Rey Dorado (the golden king), was the term used by the Spanish Empire to describe a mythical tribal chief (zipa) of the Muisca native people of Colombia, who, as an initiation rite, covered himself with gold dust and submerged in Lake Guatavita. The legends surrounding El Dorado changed over time, as it went from being a man, to a city, to a kingdom, and then finally an empire. In Edgar A. Poe’s poem from 1849 Eldorado is a land.

The poem is technically advanced. Take notice on how the words are bulit up. Not only do they create a delicate story about the knight’s life journey, it has a special rythm too. Structurally, the poem consists of four stanzas, each having six lines, known as sestets. It is composed in iambic diameter. What is the message of the poem? Do we all journey like the knight in our personal search for happiness and wealth in this life? Is the knight in Poe’s poem successful in his mission? Who is the pilgrim shadow? What do we learn from him?

Themes: The knight, romantic ideals, Life, vasted opportunities, seeking Paradise, ageing

Eldorado

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old—
This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied—
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

Sources:

wikipedia.org

Edgar A. Poe, 1809-1849

‘After great pain, a formal feeling comes’- A poem by Emily Dickinson

Context: A poem written by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) from Amherst, Mass. This poem is about the experience related to bodily pain and it’s presented to the reader in various conflicting images and words. The poem was found after Emily’s death. The poem is very typical of what Emily usually writes about: sensitivity to her external surroundings and personal incidents in life; and personal experiences about love, pain, death. Emily had many health problems. In 1884 she had seen “a great darkness coming” and fainted while baking in the kitchen. She remained unconscious late into the night and weeks of ill health followed. On November 30, 1885, her feebleness and other symptoms were so worrying that her brother Austin canceled a trip to Boston. It’s hard to say what kind of illnesses she had and they may have contributed to her secluded lifestyle. On the death of her father in 1874 she entered into complete seclusion.

Themes: bleak reality, mind/body, shock, pain. Pay attention to how the rhytm changes to describe the shock and how the following imagery presents the entire process of sensation until immobility occur.

 

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

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“Vita nuova”- a poem by Oscar Wilde

Context : “Vita nuova” means ‘new life’ in Latin.1 Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was very well-versed in Classical mythology and he learned Classical Greek at Oxford. Motifs from Greek and Roman literature are visible in his poetry. The poem was first published in 1881.

Themes : Despair, crisis and new hope returned. The sea is often described as a symbol of man’s inner feelings. Sometimes we are calm and harmonious; sometimes we are upset and unbalanced. In the poem we meet the narrator who’s standing in front of a sea. The sea is described as unvintageable. This adjective is a bit special. It’s a classical allusion to Homer, who described the sea as “wine-dark”, but then called it what has been translated as “unvintageable” – that it, it’s like a wine that you can’t drink. The scene is not peaceful in the poem. There are winds from sea, wet waves and the narrator feels life’s despair! He cries: “my life is full of pain,” he’s thinking of going into the sea; but then changes his mind. He sees something in the water which makes him forget all his troubles and “tortured past”. Hope is restored! And he feels joy instead of sorrow!

 

I stood by the unvintageable sea
Till the wet waves drenched face and hair with spray;
The long red fires of the dying day
Burned in the west; the wind piped drearily;
And to the land the clamorous gulls did flee:
Alas! I cried, my life is full of pain,
And who can garner fruit or golden grain
From these waste fields which travail ceaselessly!

My nets gaped wide with many a break and flaw
Nathless I threw them as my final cast
Into the sea, and waited for the end.
When lo! a sudden glory! and I saw
The argent splendour of white limbs ascend,
And in that joy forgot my tortured past.

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Oscar Wilde in Greece wearing a traditional folk-dress.

  1. ‘Vita Nuova’ is also a famous poem written in 1293 by Dante Alighieri. In the poem Dante expresses his love for Beatrice.