Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence; drama, USA, 1993; D: Martin Scorsese, S: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Mary Beth Hurt, Alexis Smith, Geraldine Chaplin, Richard E. Grant, Miriam Margoyles

New York, 1870s. Lawyer Newland Archer is a wealthy member of the Upper Class, has good friends and is engaged with May Welland, who is also a daughter of a distinguished family. Archer always mocked stiff Aristocrats, even though he is a conformist himself. One day he meets May's cousin Ellen, who arrived from Europe: she is a wild woman who left her husband and doesn't care that much about conventions. Archer falls in love with her, but still gets married to May, event though he doesn't feel that much for her. He admits Ellen that he loves her, but she rejects him and goes back to Europe. Years pass: Archer gets a daughter and a boy while May dies from tuberculosis. At the age of 57, he decides to visit Ellen, but changes his mind and walks away.

The gentlest film Martin Scorsese ever directed, "The Age of Innocence" is a deeply sensitive ode to repressed love and missed opportunities, and thus has a very personal, honest touch to it, even more than his violent films. Too bad that this period drama has flaws, nontheless, because its story and characters are somehow stiff. Still, Scorsese's direction avoids boredom thanks to visual execution: in one scene, a color flashes the whole screen. In another one, instead of reading a letter, May speaks her written words and looks into the camera. An article is framed as if it is flashed by a headlight. The hero writes a letter and his letters show bellow him on the screen. It is an opulent and emotional drama about the inhibited side of traditions, in this case because the protagonist Archer is forced to marry a woman he doesn't love and leave the woman he loves, and the ending is excellent, but the finale disappoints slightly. Namely, it seems a little bit unused since Archer never gains courage to start a relationship with Ellen - their romance consists only out of three kisses - and some may find it overlong and compromising, but on the other hand, one may also argue that such downbeat ending was exactly what the author intended to say. He shows a hero who walks away from his dream, creating a sad, psychologically cruel world where real romance doesn't stand a chance. "Innocence" was nominated for numerous awards, and it won an Oscar (costume design), a Golden Globe (supporting actress Winona Ryder) and a BAFTA (supporting actress Miriam Margoyles), but in 1993 "Schindler's List" and "The Piano" rightfully triumphed at those awards.


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