(A film discussion on Spring in June-July 1998)

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(Karen) Do you think Colin and SST were aware of the symbolism?
Of course, CF goes into these roles with great enthusiasm and does all kinds of in-depth studies. 

Now we know why CF plays the role passionless. That's the way it was meant to be and not through negligence on his part.

(Jana) those big macho soldiers on those tiny little horses
Didn't Colin say that for the first time ever he was actually thrown from a horse whilst filming Nostromo and he prides himself on his horsemanship. I wonder if the horses weren't properly broken in. Perhaps the pygmy horses were the only reliable breed!

I actually found that reading the novel made me appreciate the film more. The Everyman edition has a very good introduction, a detailed chronology of events and a map! All very helpful!

Nostromo isn't P&P, but I think it's a worthy effort to translate Conrad to the screen and has rarely been successful. It's not crass, vulgar or violent, just rather plodding. But there are several scenes that I really like, mainly with CF, SST and Albert Finney.. They had to film under very difficult circumstances. I remember reading that the director collapsed from exhaustion and had to direct the final scenes from hospital. The producer said that all the cast complained bitterly of the heat and humidity except CF and Finney, who were very stoical!

(Evelyn) Now we know why CF plays the role passionless. That's the way it was meant to be and not through negligence on his part.
CF is very true to the characterisation of Charles Gould in the novel. He hides his true feelings under a mask of reserve and makes himself appear cold and detached.

"Mrs. Gould heroically concealed her dismay at the appearance of men and events so remote from her racial conventions, dismay too deep to be uttered in words even to her husband. She understood his voiceless reserve better now. Their confidential intercourse fell, not in moments of privacy, but precisely in public, when the quick meeting of their glances would comment upon some fresh turn of events. She had gone to his school of uncompromising silence, the only one possible, since so much that seemed shocking, weird and grotesque in the working out of their purposes, had to be accepted as normal in this country."

Charles and Emilia understand each other and she is the only one he trusts absolutely.

Some of my favourite scenes are:

(1) When Charles and Emilia visit their house for the first time. I love the garden, the music, the way they look at each other, the way he looks as he opens the shutters. I like the exchange of words "You were a solemn little boy. That was England," and the way he says "I was born in this room."

(2) The scene between Dr Monygham and Emilia when he tries to persuade her that she and Charles should leave.

(3) The mine scene from standing at the grave onwards. Enough said! I actually also like the dialogue in this scene.

(4) Getting ready for dinner with the President, Emilia helps Charles with his cuffs.

(5) The rainy night when Emilia asks if they can go home and says she wants children. They embrace and Charles tries to console her.

(6) At the harbour watching the troops depart when he says "God willing, never without you and kisses her hand." (I'm a sentimentalist at heart!)

(7) The closing scenes from the death of Nostromo onwards. The music is very powerful and moving. I am not sure how we are supposed to interpret the look on Charles' face. Is he elated? Or is he realising that his achievements are at the cost of his integrity?

There are several more which are worth revisiting. Perhaps I need a strictly edited down version!

I always wondered at Emilia's easy acceptance of a radically different lifestyle. From your quote, Bethan, it appears it was not really that easy. Nostromo is clearly a very ambitious project and I think it succeeded fairly well in bringing the story to the screen. It just got weighed down by the multiple story lines. Could it have stayed true to Conrad if we had one less Montero?

Ditto your favorite scenes, Bethan. I might add to the scene where Charles is showing the house to Emilia the first time, the line, "Here we entertain the town, Mrs. Gould."

I also like the scene when Charles comes up behind Monygham who has fallen asleep holding the rifle in his arms trying to defend against the coming invaders. Monygham is startled and then embarrassed when he realizes he's been caught unaware by the man he hates. Charles is so cool and detached as he smokes his cigarette while the doctor baits him. I liked him a little dirty and disheveled and loved his boots.

(Evelyn) he was shagging the mine and not Emilia.
I don't care what he's shagging as long as I see that left shoulder motion. Actually, Evelyn, I love your term. Makes the symbolism seems a bit less heavy-handed.

(Karen) Emilia is handed the first chuck of refined ore. That's supposed to be her giving birth.
So when he says, "The firstborn of the mine," he really meant it? Yuck.

Did anyone feel there was an intense physical attraction between Nostromo and Emilia? In Episode 3, he kisses Emilia's hand. The camera zeros in on his sensuous lips on her hand and then comes up to Charles who is giving Nostromo a piercing look as if suspecting more than admiration between them. I can't find anything in the book or notes that would document this, but I felt the screenplay made this point subliminally. 

Poor Emilia. All the men loved her except the man she loved— or did she love Charles at the end? 

(Evelyn) physical attraction between Nostromo and Emilia?...I can't find anything in the book...but I felt the screenplay made this point
It does give that impression but, as you said, is unsupported by the book. What the book (or my reading of it and other stuff) would support is an adoration of the one character that Conrad has set up at the *good* end of the values continuum. Nostromo is the "natural" man (at the far left, i.e., beginning of evolution) and is only interested in his good name. He really has no principles, so to speak. Emilia, on the other hand, comes to symbolize the greater humanity that Conrad advocated (far right of the spectrum). She has given up her self and is understanding and kind with no ulterior motives. Throughout the book, Conrad mentions her and a Madonna image. Remember, in Episode 1, at the mining camp as they are eating, Nostromo calls her a Madonna.

At the end, when Nostromo is trying to confess his sin and she doesn't want to hear it, this becomes her moment of vision, her renouncement of the materialism that she supported with her husband.

Best Looking/Fav Scene: Colin has got to look his absolute best near the end when they're having a dinner party after winning. He's wearing a red vest and an open-necked shirt and looks so confidant and yummy, maybe because he thinks all his troubles are over.

Nostromo shows up and Charles tries to offer him a reward for notifying Barrios. Nostromo tells him that he can't do anything for him and Emilia goes after N. I love how Charles sees what is happening and understands what she is doing and how right it is for Nostromo. As he approaches them in the garden and addresses Nostromo as Señor Fidanza, his eyes look to the side, to Emilia, as if to show he fully supports whatever she has just said.

I think a lot of people just thought about Nostromo "oh, it's not P&P" and gave up on it, but it does warrant some serious thought. And he does look good, open necked, hatless and relaxed (and wet in the mine!)

Here are a few quotes from about the time Nostromo came out in the UK:

Producer (Italian): "I owe so much to the stoicism of the British actors. While the Italians and Spaniards would storm off the set complaining they couldn't work in the heat, Colin Firth and Albert Finney would just sit there sweating it out. Thank goodness for the stiff upper lip." 

CF on Gould: "He isn't very expressive but there are lots of complex emotions bubbling under the surface, I enjoy twisted characters. Playing heroes isn't my strong point!"

The same article says that filming Nostromo was very difficult because of the sweltering heat. CF had an assistant to supply him with water so he didn't become dehydrated, sets were washed away by rainstorms, the director collapsed from exhaustion, SST was ill after being bitten by bugs, there were some murders near the film set, and local corruption was a problem. CF comments on the children begging for food. Not exactly a fun location!

(Bethan) I think a lot of people just thought about Nostromo "oh, it's not P&P" and gave up
I think that happened more in the UK than in the US, where Nostromo was quite popular on PBS. Also didn't BBC sort of force-feed the audience with "mine shows"? Rhodes, for instance.

Favorite Look: He looks the best in black tie. Also in the baggy, beige linen suit with the plantation hat! Worth the six hours.

Another quote from the Santa Monica interview that Jana posted that goes to Colin's understanding of his character:

"In the BBC's production of Nostromo, he plays the decidedly unheroic part of an Englishman who inherits a defunct silver mine in a fictional South American country called Costaguana. He determines to revive the mine because of "his belief in the power of industry to civilise the world, but as he succeeds he sacrifices his wife—and everyone else emotionally." 
"He's a tricky character," Firth continues, as if all his characters weren't. "I don't think I understood him or his obsession."

(Heide) I don't think Charles really cares that much about Costaguana's democracy.
Everything is a means to an end for Charles. His mine will bring order to this perpetually corrupt and unstable country. But this is only a phase. "A better justice will come afterwards. That's our ray of hope." Charles sees true promise in this country and its people, and the Western world's tools will shape it and he will be the guiding force to make it happen because, as he tell Emilia, "A man must work to some end."

(Bethan) Fav scenes: The rainy night when Emilia asks if they can go home and says she wants children
Hold your pygmy horses! Isn't this the same scene where he says he's going to sleep in the next room because he doesn't want to disturb her when he leaves for the mine early the next morning? I wanted to slap him. She's talking children and he goes to sleep elsewhere. Brrrr! that was cold.

(Heide) Could it have stayed true to Conrad if we had one less Montero
OK, we could leave out General Montero. Pedro is a must! ;-)

That reminds me of another great scene—the one between Pedro and Charles after Charles is picked up the first time. The two are sizing each other up. Pedro tries to intimidate Charles, but Don Carlos es muy macho aquí. Charles just stares Pedro down. He is totally fearless and refuses Pedro's offer of safe passage out of the country for him and his wife. 

PM: Then I will have your shot. 
CG: Then the mine will be blown up 

PM puts his arms around CG and it's like PM has just determined that Charles has the good-sized cojones. Then he says, OK, now that we understand each other we could work together.

This is a great scene. Colin is cool as a cucumber and even gives a slight smirk when PM says that he was "educated" and lived in Europe.

(1) Did it strike anyone as odd that Nostromo had to go overland across the mountains to get General Barrios but returned by sea? Check the map in your book, Bethan.

(2) The meaning of names always gets me. Fidanza is easy, but the significance of Gian Battista. To me it sounds like John the Baptist, but I can't figure out how that relates to Nostromo. Can anyone shed some light on this?

(Bethan) I think a lot of people just thought..."oh, it's not P&P" and gave up on it. 
(Evelyn) I think that happened more in theUK...Also didn't BBC sort of force-feed the audience with "mine shows"?
Interesting point. I honestly think it was assumed Nostromo wouldn't be successful. Rhodes had been a flop and Nostromo was tarred with the "another mining saga" brush and put on Saturday evenings (not highly regarded for scheduling). And I think it was assumed that women would be looking for another Darcy from Colin (one female reviewer wrote that she could have wept when she saw him with a beard) which perhaps many were. I quite liked it and my 14-year-old son actually thought it was very good. And my husband (who didn't like P&P) found it interesting. Perhaps it had more appeal for men?

To go back to appeal for the women, I must admit to also being rather transfixed by the scene where he strides in breeches and boots after Dr Monygham to ask him to work in the mine. "Doctor, doctor."

After reading Cheryl's riveting saga on Valmont, I am struck that the poor man is jinxed. Valmont failed because Dangerous Liaisons scuppered them and Nostromo was not a success in the UK because Rhodes, a poor quality mine saga, preceded it. It's a miracle the guy is still in the profession.

I don't know if we've ever had such a successful discussion here as we seem to be having with Nostromo. Why is that? It can't be counted as anyone's favorite. Guess the complexity of the plot has more merit than we've given credit.

(Evelyn) intense physical attraction between Nostromo and Emilia
I believe it was there even if it wasn't in the book. The hand kissing was the clincher. As his lips are leaving her hand, his eyes slide to the side where Charles is watching him. Note the guilty expression.

On Nostromo's side, I'd say it was still a Madonna-like attraction. Emilia is an idealized character throughout. On Emilia's side, I'd say she was carried away by Nostromo's heroics and romanticized them, romance being sorely lacking in her life by then. Upon discovering Ramirez's love for the younger Viola daughter, she wistfully says, "How wonderful to be loved in that way."

(Karen) Emilia goes after N. I love how Charle sees what is happening and understands what she is doing and how right it is for Nostromo.
I too love this scene although I think he sees the tenderness between N&E (yes, not in the book) and needs to show he is in charge here. But he knows the right thing and the necessity to show respect and he does it. That's what I like best about Charles—he knows just what to do (except doing poor Emilia).

Two excellent points you bring up, Karen. Nostromo was a sailor. He could have gone by sea as well to bring Barrios back. And where was Barrios hiding his boat in those mountains? :-) Shades of Fitzcarraldo? And Gian Battista/John the Baptist. Excellent association.

(Bethan) And I think it was assumed that women would be looking for another Darcy from Colin
You're probably right. Though P&P fever reigned in the US, it seems nowhere near to the depth as in the UK. Can Colin be forgiven yet for playing someone other than Darcy?

Okay, down to the basics. Does he fight effectively with Montero? Heck, he misses him with the gun. How do we compare his fighting technique with, say, A Thousand Acres or others?

In the celebration scene at Casa Gould, after Charles is saved and Montero escaped, I think Charles is a bit drunk. Personally, I think Colin does drunk scenes very well. Though this one is subtle, anyone care to rate her favorite drunk scenes? Valmont? Femme Fatale? Tumbledown? Pride & Prejudice? (gotcha!)

Gian Battista/John the Baptist
Latin and some other Catholic countries have a strong tradition of Christian (first) names. A man may be christened John (the) Baptist after that particular saint and to differentiate expressly from other St. Johns, as there are a few. Another such peculiar double Christian name for a man is Jose Maria, comprising the names of the Holy Family—with the name of Jesus customarily omitted out of respect.

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