Friday, June 27, 2008

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day; Drama, UK/ USA, 1993; D: James Ivory, S: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, James Fox, Christopher Reeve, Hugh Grant, Ben Chaplin

Britain, 1950's. Stevens is a perfect butler whose master Darlington deceased, so his mansion is taken over by millionaire Lewis. Stevens remembers his life 20 years ago: Darlington had contracts with Nazis so he kept a conference to help the Third Reich. Stevens was secretly in love with housekeeper Sally Kenton but he never told her that. Stevenson's father was also a butler who worked for Darlington, but died in the mansion from a stroke. In order not to anger the Nazis, Darlington fired two Jewish maids, but quickly felt remorse. Now Stevens once again meets Sally, but she already married and has a daughter, even though she still has feelings for him. Left alone, Stevens repels a pigeon from Lewis' mansion.

Melancholic adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel with the same title, James Ivory's "The Remains of the Day" was nominated for 5 Golden Globes, 8 Oscars and 6 BAFTA awards (including best picture, director, screenplay, actor Anthony Hopkins) but didn't win anything. The subtly sad story about an introverted butler who misses his chance for big love seems monotone and anemic, but director Ivory knew how to use his iconography to insert interesting details into it. Stevens, for instance, warns Sally (very good Emma Thompson) that he hopes she isn't just one of those housekeepers who travels from mansion to mansion just to find a romance with someone, which gives certain dose of irony in their "romance" without romance. Even more absurd is the situation where the Lord orders him, his butler, to clear out his son about intercourse, so he starts talking about spring and flowers. There is a certain problem in the mild presentation and the structure where the romance never manifests itself, but since the theme of the film was transience and missed opportunities in life, it even fits into texture, offering a quality made period drama.


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