Friday 20 June 2014

Belle - A Rambling Review

Here be minor spoilers!

The film Belle revolves around the theme of status, which is a deliciously meaty topic to discuss and dissect in the film's context. In a place where where this matters so much,  Dido (Belle, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) literally finds herself in the middle - daughter of an English father and a mother of unknown origins (but presumably, the African continent was involved somewhat).

Her situation is further complicated by the fact that she later on finds herself an heiress. So she has the money, and she has the noble connections, but she also has the stigma of being her mother's  daughter. She lives and loves her family but cannot eat a formal dinner with them. Her cousin, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), finds herself in a similar, yet contrasting bind - she is of noble and upbringing, but soon to be penniless.

This would not be such a big deal nowadays, but it's 1797. A woman is (almost literally) nothing if she is not married. There's a moment where Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) tries to give Dido the keys of her spinster Aunt Mary, and it's basically him saying that he doesn't expect her ever to find a husband.

 Crossed with this plotline is the fact that Dido and Elizabeth's Great Uncle Lord Mansfield  is presiding over the Zong massacre case - where a slaving ship is attempting to claim insurance money back on 142 slaves it threw overboard to drown in the sea.

Oh, and then there's the influence of a particular young lawyer on Dido....

Nomination for the next Friday Pretty: Hats 'n' Wigs Edition
The man literally has a voice so bone shakingly gravelly, it makes me think of a mountain on the move. 
Anyway, his 'radical' (we would call them normal nowadays...I hope) views on slavery start to influence Dido to reflect more on her life and social position and basically drive her Great Uncle Lord Mansfield up the wall because he feels it is driving his household into chaos.

Who will Dido marry? What will Lord Mansfield rule on the Zong massacre case? 

I went to see the film with The Wonder Thing. And it thankfully, it was good.

The moments between John Davinier (pictured above, played by Sam Reid) and Lord Mansfield after their 'break up' are possibly some of my most favourites in the film, merely for the facial expressions when they see each other. 

Since the film is based on the facts behind a picture, it makes sense that Dido starts to look for people who look like her in pictures and analyse what it means, which I thought was touching and still relevant today when we look for more representation and diversity in the media. Their placing in the pictures is always very indicative of their status - lower and in the background (or completely cut out. I'm just saying).

The portrait the film is based on

This is such a beautifully layered film that I loved watching for so many different, reasons. Remembering watching it makes my toes tingle in glee. Like, she's wearing 18th century clothing! And she is someone of colour in a film with a British/English accent!

Few more things:
  1. Tom Felton of Draco Malfoy fame makes an appearance in this, though the wig and moustache shading threw me off momentarily. He plays a not very nice character and I'm beginning to worry he will get typecast as wormy types. He played the character well in that I saw the mindset of many a plantation owner in him and I wanted to throw up.
  2. I got confused what was up with all the wet eyes in the film. I know it was hard at times, but I didn't know if certain characters were on the brink of tears or if they had allergies.

Do you need some anti-histamines, love?
I got a bit confused with the camera angles - sometimes they pulled out so far it took me a while to spot the characters in the scene and other times I wished they wouldn't focus so hard on one person's face. I mean, I live for the cuter moments like this:

Get your distance right and don't deprive me of the cuteness!

Oh, and the Wonder Thing enjoyed it too! He says he thought it was a good film and he is glad that the assault was not carried out by who we thought it would be.

In short (haha!), I thought the costumes were opulent, the actors did what they had to do, and I want it on DVD. Please go and see this film, and don't just stream it online!

TL:DR: Sumptuous clothing, British accents, thinking film, go see.

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