The Duchess – Every Decision Has Its Consequence

The Duchess

When I saw the DVD of “The Duchess” selling in HMV Hong Kong, I was wondering how I could possibly miss a movie by Keira Knightley on a big screen in Singapore.  We thought we did.  So, Cynthia and I watched it on our way back from Hong Kong, inside the cabin of our favorite airline, SIA.  Then we realized that “The Duchess” is now showing here exclusively in GV.

Some titles do take long to arrive.

I seldom read reviews by others – no disrespect to other reviewers – because I wish to form my own view.  I do however check the aggregated score from time to time.  And I welcome controversy views.  Hence, I do pay attention to movies that are both loved and hated by many.

Since “The Duchess” is based on true (or historical) events, I think it is rather pointless to comment too much on the storyline.  Or how the story could have ended in a better way.  It is what it is: a series of scandals that involved the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Charles Grey (2nd Earl Grey) the would-be Prime Minister of UK, and more.  I wish to say that “The Duchess” is about one lady’s strength amidst the harsh reality of needing to produce a male heir, a non-existence love relationship, trapped within her own home, and more.  But true story being as such, there is – in my opinion – no satisfactory triumph.

So I gave it some thoughts and to me, the take home message is that Every Decision has its Consequence.  And working within this theme, I think “The Duchess” really shine in portraying how Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (played by Knightley) lived through the decisions made in such a male dominating environment more than 200 hundred years ago.

How civilization has advanced since then.  It was procreation in the most contractual form.  A man’s lifelong quest to foster male heirs and a woman’s lifelong commitment to care for her children.  And in the mist of all these chaotic lust filled desire from the both sexes, how less complicated it would be if they had the various means of contraception in our today’s world.

The choice of Keira Knightley is good and she works well in a costume drama setting.  What lovely accent she has.  In “The Duchess”, she plays an innocent young girl, a mother, a wife to a man doesn’t know love, a lover, a friend betrayed, and more.  If you stop and think, it is a pretty wide spectrum of emotion.  She has done well, in my book.  In contrary, Ralph Fiennes’s acting as the Duke is mostly being the same sternness and loveless towards his wife – as demanded by the plot.  However, his performance is equally as good to watch.

“The Duchess” reminds me of “The Other Boleyn Girl” at times.  Perhaps this one track desire to have a male heir.  I am rather happy to live in 2009 in this part of the world where having a child – be it as a boy or a girl – is a blessing from the above.

Atonement – A Sad Story Beautifully Filmed

atonement.jpg

You, must have thought that I am kidding right? Writing a movie review while holidaying in Hong Kong? Cynthia and I just cannot resist not watching a film for a week. On top of that, it is a film with Keira Knightley, a film nominated for the Golden Globe Awards, and a film perhaps yet to be shown in Singapore (or is it over already?).

Where did I watch “Atonement”? None other than the most prestigious IFC mall that is right next to, I believe, the tallest building in Hong Kong – International Finance Centre (IFC). Prestige comes with a whopping price tag of S$15 per seat. Not just any seat, but a full leather seat. I was mildly disappointed with the screen though. It doesn’t seem like a wide-screen format to me. I tried to book online and that was another disappointment. They only accept local credit cards for a transaction lower than HKD 200. D’uh!

“Atonement” is anything but disappointment. It prompts me to think which one is more important: the reality or the story being immortalized by ink and paper. If you do watch “Atonement”, pay attention to the composition of each scene. The scenes are so perfectly composed that it is hard not to look at the film from the artistic angle. There is one particular scene at the beach with soldiers waiting to return home that is not to be missed. It is one long shot (quite possibly a continuous shot but we all know what computers can do these days) with subjects of focus changing swiftly from one to another.  Also, the way that some of the scenes appear ahead of time is, I think, a clever trick that doesn’t seem to get old even when it is done a couple of times throughout the movie.

I have yet to watch “Pride & Prejudice” by Keira Knightley and the same director Joe Wright but I would say “Atonement” is perhaps Keira Knightley’s best performance to date. The original score is innovative by mixing different sounds, such as the typewriter, into the background music (you will see the significance of the typewriter later). In short, if you enjoy watching drama, albeit a sad one, you may like this one.