Overwhelming romance, based on a true story, has just arrived in the Netflix catalog

Possibly it was the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) who crafted the most melancholy love story ever. Not coincidentally, the affair between Anna Karenina, wife of a high commissioner of Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881), and a cavalry officer in the army, a fictional scandal among the aristocracy of imperial Russia, was brought to the screen five times, between 1935 and 2012, always a success with the public and critics, the theme aroused such attention. Tolstoy faces a strong competitor when it comes to scandalizing pious souls in the face of ill-fated loves. In 1840s England, a young woman submits to the worst of choices and marries a man to save her family from impending famine. No one who commits such an insanity, driven by despair, hopes to live well, either with himself or in his new condition, but fate appears to him to be especially perverse. Everything takes on a somewhat indefinite, blurry, gloomy tone, lost between gray and black, but the worst thing is that there is not much room to look for a happy ending to this story. Once you get into that runaway car, you don’t get off without serious injuries.

A woman’s luck has been even more sadly limited, largely because of respect for 19th century customs. “Effie Gray: A Repressed Passion” (2014), a romantic drama by British writer Richard Laxton, portrays a marriage ruled by failure, since before it started. Alleviating the clamor of the omnipresent feminists, it can be said that the Scottish Euphemia Chalmers Millais (1828-1897), before Euphemia Ruskin, the Effie Gray of the title, was just another woman victim of the doubly atrocious subjugation of the society of her time, which it ruled that women should never go beyond a certain age unmarried, being compelled by their own family to marry, any marriage, with a man who could support them—and that was all. On the other hand, it has to be said, of course, that Effie was old enough to know what she was getting herself into, despite the particularities of her union with the British art critic and plastic artist John Ruskin (1819-1900) having overcome any terrible expectation. Greg Wise’s brilliantly developed Ruskin certainly mirrors what the real-life Ruskin had been, a snobbish, overconfident, icy man, pleasant to behold in his cold beauty, treated to sponge cake by a mother. pathologically loving Margaret from the also very good Julie Walters. You don’t reach adulthood surrounded by so much pampering with impunity, and Wise has his moments of genius in the character’s skin. It’s not for everyone to take a guy like Ruskin in a water bath for nearly two hours without letting the boil over; this is about to happen precisely at the turning point of Emma Thompson’s script, which gives life to Lady Eastlake, the confidant of the anti-heroine, survivor of a congener union. Aware of the woman’s involvement with John Everett Millais, a pupil of hers who starts to do everything (or rather, almost everything) in the couple’s company, Wise threatens to give in to human impulses, as he would with an ordinary man, but Ruskin it is a few inches above pedestrian humanity, for better or for worse. It is difficult to conceive what that particularly disturbed subject could have intended, perhaps even more disoriented by decades of a castrating maternal influence. Perhaps he knew from the start that he could not consummate his marriage to any woman—the scene in which Ruskin runs away from his wife, naked, on their wedding night, without fanfare, thinking he would not hurt her that way, is very symbolic of his destructive immaturity— ; even so, he is scandalized by the slightest movement of Effie outside what he considers the role of an exemplary companion, and, finally, shows part of his anger and his virile pride when sniffing out a possible adultery, all the worse if with a man of your trust.

This other couple, also initially condemned, the Effie Gray played by Dakota Fanning and Millais by Sturridge, stands firm in spite of the ubiquitous backbiting, not without experiencing some unpleasantness for it. In the opposite direction, but very much in tune with Wise, Fanning demonstrates extreme safety by throwing himself headlong and without any safety net for a character who demands everything from him. The protagonist conveys the agony of a young woman who finds herself trapped in the trap she has built for herself, as she begins to devote her life to escaping such an ungrateful and, she understands, unfair fate — when she is not being dangerously sabotaged. by Margaret, who gives her homeopathic doses of poison to see her more and more prostrate, tamed like a circus beast.

Laxton’s inspirations are obvious in paradigmatic works of cinema that spread over the subject in a disturbingly functional way, such as “Rebecca, the Unforgettable Woman” (1940), directed by Hitchcock, and “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974), taken to the screen by John Cassavetes (1929-1989), and the film in turn is mirrored in later works, such as “The Danish Girl” (2015), by Tom Hooper, which complements “Effie Gray”. While in Einar and Gerda Wegener’s story, sex was never an issue, even though Eddie Redmayne’s character was indeed a homosexual — and if it turns out, in fact, to be a transgender woman — Ruskin’s alleged homosexuality never comes out of the cocoon, preserving his manhood. . Perhaps the character’s problem was even deeper, and he wallowed in the black mud of crime, with repressed inclinations of a probable pedophilia. Speculation aside, the fact is that the three remained stigmatized and outraged throughout their lives, and the history of these unions remains marked by the red-hot iron of hypocrisy.

Movie: Effie Gray: A Suppressed Passion
Direction: Richard Laxton
Year: 2014
Genres: Drama romance
Note: 8/10

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