(A film discussion
on Spring in June-July 1998)
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(Nan) Remember ladies, Nostromo is on tonight.
Bring on the pygmy horses!
I read an interesting comment by a man, who said that Charles Gould was an "il pappano" (a daddy's boy) who wanted to prove that he was better than his father. He also commented that Emilia had all the guts, Charles was a weakling, and it was an interesting part for an actor to play (i.e., a weakling).
I think this observation casts light on CF's performance. I tend to see Gould as a reserved, obsessed man who is basically strong. But many of his actions are those of a weak and dangerously indecisive man, who in the end is just as much a failure as his father. This makes Emilia a doubly tragic figure. By staying loyal to her husband she is condemned to spend her life in a world she grows to hate. In the end she must also realise that he has compromised his ideals, and yet she can't stop loving him.
I remember Renate quoted a reviewer who said that it was unusual for someone who looked like CF to play inadequate, unheroic characters.
Does Charles truly love Emilia?
"With a prophetic vision, she saw herself surviving alone the degradation of her young ideal of life, of love, of work—all alone in the Treasure House of the World....He did not see it, he could not see it. It was not his fault. He was perfect, perfect; but she would never have him to herself. Never, not for one short hour together...."
In what ways do others find Charles weak? My impressions of Charles are not of a weak or indecisive man at all. To me, he seems very capable, strong, brave, determined, paternal. He knows just what to do to get the mine open, who to bribe, who to trust, who to curry favor with. He practically arms the militia himself and puts himself in grave danger. I do find the idea of a "papa's boy" interesting though and think that is on target.
He's in love with the country; you can see it in his face when they come into the harbor. He loves his wife but takes her for granted. She is a very strong, self-reliant lady herself. I really like her. She desperately loves him and remains true to him though she later sees what real passion is. She welcomes this strange new life, doesn't wilt in the heat, makes friends easily, is kind to Dr. Monygham, is astute and loyal and, most importantly, isn't afraid of snakes and bugs. She's a perfect partner for her husband but he doesn't let her be one.
Left shoulder alert in the mine scene!
You have a lot of meaningful camera shots and good suspenseful music, but there's nothing really happening to meet that promise. Every action seems to peter out for just another person or unconnected thread of the story to be introduced. I think the script has a mechanical structure, weak dialogue and too many major characters. The casting was poor in some areas. The only persons you can remotely relate to are Albert Finney and Emilia Scott-Thomas. Charles Gould is a locked-up, self-centered character who is played as very focused, quiet and introverted. Not a character to identify with anyway. (Watch the very controlled movements.)
Too many people milling around, and you know all of them are going to be awfully unhappy at the end. Depressing.
There are things to like. All the characters are flawed (except Emilia) which makes for interesting motive questions. There are a few golden Colin moments as well. I use the word "golden" intentionally because I love picking out the shots where his hair is almost blonde. I also like his rugged appearance toward the middle of the series, while he struggles to save his silver when all the hostile sides are converging on Sulaco.
A difficult film to like.
Question: Is Charles merely mercenary? Trying to make a fortune from the silver, thus his rush to get it out of the country? Or is he more of a benevolent despot, treating his workers well but all in his quest of trying to emulate his father and finishing (or besting) what his father begun?
1. When did Charles become obsessed with the mine?
Charles also comes back to avenge his father's death and he thinks he is the man to do it—a Hercules who will clean the Augean stables. He has an irrational need to revive the mine and perform a ritualistic act of slaying the dragon that slew his father. Like the fairy tale he mentions when he and Emilia are in the mine: "It's like fairy tales when you're young. The spell is cast over you."
(Bethan) a reserved obsessed man who is basically strong. But many
of his actions are those of a weak and dangerously indecisive man
(Bethan) This makes Emilia a doubly tragic figure...she is condemned
to spend her life in a world she grows to hate.
(Renate) The casting was poor in some areas.
(Renate) Charles Gould is a locked-up, self-centered character who
is played as very focused, quiet and introverted.
(Heide) There are a few golden Colin moments as well.
Incorrigible in his hard, determined service of the material interests to which he had pinned his faith in the triumph of order and justice. Poor boy! She had a clear vision of the gray hairs on his temples. He was perfect—perfect. What more could she have expected?...and love was only a short moment of forgetfulness, a short intoxication, whose delight one remembered with a sense of sadness, as if it had been a deep grief lived through....A terrible success for the last of the Goulds. The last! She had hoped for a long, long time that perhaps— But no! There were to be no more....With prophetic vision she saw herself surviving alone the degradation of her young ideal of life, of love, of work...It's very well-expressed and rather moving. I wish we had seen more of the relationship between Charles and Emilia in the film. I thought that CF and SST made a sympathetic couple and I would have liked to have seen their fate more fully developed.
Other motive questions would be Nostromo himself and his reasons for agreeing to save the silver. But I don't know if I really want to discuss him myself. Charles is plenty interesting enough.
The lines from the book are very moving and I feel sorry for Emilia, but I understand her reasons for staying with him. Being single, I forget how wives (certainly of that time) identify themselves so wholly with their husbands. Their lives before marriage were insignificant to them as people.
"A terrible success for the last of the Goulds. The last! She had
hoped for a long, long time that perhaps— But no! There were to be no more..."
Why is Dr. Monygham so virulently anti-Gould? We can argue it is his respect and love for Emilia. But is it more?
I have to admit that I'm not fond of this film. I found it very depressing and not easy to watch. The plot reminded me of the song "Land of Confusion" (Phil Collins): "Too many men making too many problems!" I did like the music and even bought the CD.
Is the average size of horses in South America less than in Europe? If not, did the producers use these little horses on purpose to show how ridiculous the various actions are? The horses always look as if they are trying to run fast but aren't able to do so.
(Sylvia) Is the average size of horses in South America less than
(Jana) I got stuck at the mine scene and have not been able to make
myself move on
Which brings me to a discrepancy (I think) between the film and the book. At the beginning when Charles' father is murdered, we see a picture of Charles as a little boy. Next, Charles the adult and his wife arrive in Costaguana. In the book, Charles left Costaguana when he was about 12 to go to school in England. The letters from his father showed his despair over the politics of Costaguana and exhorting him to never return to claim his inheritance. Charles was a third generation Costaguanian; his uncle had been governor or president.
Anyway, Charles had made up his mind long before his father's death to make a go of the mine. The stories became like a fairy tale to him. He studied to be a mining engineer and visited sites all over (as he says to his father's grave in the movie). He also met Emilia in Italy and their relationship was one built on understanding rather than any great passion. He proposes to her right after he hears of his father's death and is planning to go there to take over (after a slight detour to get financing in the US from Holyrod). She accepts him and relishes being "the first lady of European society" in Costaguana, again not terribly passionate from her side either. She was an orphan and believed in him and his fairy tale. What other life had she?
So the fact that Charles goes there directly after his father's death, and not years as would be implied by the photograph, does make for a different interpretation.
(Jana) I've always had a hard time not giggling at the sight of those
big macho soldiers on those tiny little horses.
(Jana) Apparently they're very special and it's considered a privilege
to ride one.
(Evelyn) he was shagging the mine and not Emilia. Sometimes it doesn't
pay to get literary!
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