"}
Film

The Invisible Woman

An affair for the ages

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nineteenth century photography required that a person sit perfectly still for a long time, and so most photos of Charles Dickens show him either looking stern or glum. But there is one picture, in which he seems to be turning to the camera and smiling, and in that image you can see the man who wrote the novels. It’s that Dickens that Ralph Fiennes presents and plays in The Invisible Woman.

The film depicts the secret love affair Dickens had with the young actress Nelly Ternan, which began when he was 45 and she was 18 and lasted until Dickens’ death 13 years later. At the time, Dickens was the most famous writer in England, an energetic public figure, not just a writer but also a popular speaker and social critic, recognized everywhere he went. He was also married. Fiennes plays him as a jovial and extroverted personality, someone who can talk all night. But the sadness that seems so much a part of Fiennes’ screen essence comes into play, too, in that we sense something sorrowful underlying Dickens’ surface cheer.

The casting of Nelly was all-important, the difference between success and failure. Felicity Jones looks very young, but she has the alertness of a keen intelligence, so that when she looks at Dickens we know that she can both appreciate his work and understand the man. Yes, Nelly is young and pretty, but there’s more going on here than a writer’s midlife crisis. This is a spirit connection with complex implications.

The Invisible Woman is Fiennes’ second film as a director, much different from his previous effort, Coriolanus. (Really, the only similarity between Coriolanus and The Invisible Woman is that both show Fiennes is a superb director of himself, neither self-effacing nor in love with his own image.) Here he uses long takes and a stationary camera, and the music on the soundtrack is mostly reserved for transitions between scenes. There is next to no underscoring. The result of this is an increased sense of being in the room with the actors, or rather with Nelly and Dickens. We can feel the quiet that surrounds them and their concentration on each other.

The Invisible Woman, based on Claire Tomalin’s book, is very good at pointing out the social difficulties surrounding the Dickens-Ternan relationship, the power dynamics within it and the lasting effects of it. Dickens’ wife, Catherine, is an entirely sympathetic figure, but as smartly played by Joanna Scanlan, she doesn’t have the vaguest conception of her husband’s work, and she has nothing of his drive. The movie asks, is this really what Dickens was supposed to do? Never again be with a woman he loves? Never have a satisfying conversation with a woman within a romantic relationship? Just go around producing great work that makes everybody happy, not only in his own time, but for future generations, but never be happy himself? Maybe that was exactly what Dickens was supposed to do, but it’s no easy thing to expect of anyone.

In the two-person scenes between Jones and Fiennes, Nelly and Dickens are equals—if anything, she has the upper hand. But in the outside world, he is all powerful, and she has everything to lose. This double fact underlies everything, from the concern that Nelly’s mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) expresses, to the secrets Nelly must keep in later life. Throughout, the beauty of Jones’ performance is that Nelly seems to understand it all, not just Dickens and his art, but the distance between the real truth and what truths can be spoken.

As such, The Invisible Woman is a strong movie about a young woman who makes a choice and then lives with it, accepting the reality of knowing all and yet having to stay invisible.

Ticket Cascadia
More Film...
Doctober
Handling the truth

By now, everyone knows that when I’m not executing my Cascadia Weekly duties, I’m moonlighting as a projectionist at the Pickford Film Center.

While the Pickford is currently offering its customary selection of top-notch indie movies, behind the scenes, all conversation revolves…

more »
London Road
A musical murder mystery

The techniques of verbatim theater go back decades, to at least the 1950s, when young German theater troupes would reenact complicated court cases word for word onstage. Even earlier, in the United States, the WPA paid for a form of this performance with its “Living Newspapers,” in…

more »
The Magnificent Seven
Another day, another remake

The big difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters. The titular seven in director Antoine Fuqua’s take are a diverse bunch, while the ruthless villain of the piece is no longer a Mexican bandito…

more »
Events
Today
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Ensembulele

4:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Final After-Hours Market

4:00pm|Depot Market Square

Autumn Soups

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Tame Your Inner Critic

7:00pm|Village Books

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Looking for Betty MacDonald

7:30pm|Village Books

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

CW BOB 2016 Northwood Steak and Crab
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Spanish Storytime

10:30am|Lynden Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Autumn Celebration Dinner

5:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Swinomish 2016 Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Saturday
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Run Like a Girl

8:00am|Fairhaven Park

Model Train Show

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Benefit Garage Sale

9:00am|T.G. Richards Building

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Cabbage Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Healthcare Film

9:30am|Bellingham Public Library

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Fermentation Fun

10:00am|Blaine Library

Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

10:00am|Skagit County

Fall Fruit Festival

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Film is Truth Anniversary Party

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Birding Walk

10:00am|South Whatcom Library

Porpathon

10:00am|Salish Sea

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Buddy Walk

11:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

National Geographic's 50 Greatest Photos Opening

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Banned Books Week Read-In

12:30pm|Village Books

Intro to NaNoWriMo

1:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Artist Lecture

1:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Matched Makers Opening

2:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Timber Rose

2:00pm|North Fork Library

Traditional Jazz

2:00pm|VFW Hall

Blessing of the Animals

3:30pm|Cornwall Park

Poetry Palavers

4:00pm|Village Books

Edison Opening

5:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Matzke Art Auction

5:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Celebrating Jack Prelutsky

5:30pm|Western Library

Fred Morrison

7:00pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

The Aimees

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

USA Dance

7:00pm|Presence Studio

George Winston

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Folk Dance Party

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Bellingham Chamber Music Society

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

see our complete calendar »

{/exp:stash:get_list} CW BOB 2016 Northwood Steak and Crab Artifacts Wine Bar Mount Baker Theatre Village Books Andrew Subin Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Everybody’s Store Swinomish 2016 Zoots Side Bar Bellingham Farmer’s Market