"}
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.

SVCR-0603 Buffet_ 770x150 CW
More Film...
Southside With You
Barack gets the girl

A 20-something woman living at home prepares for a day out. Her parents tease her as she fixes her hair. Is it a date? No, just a work associate, a Harvard law student with the firm for the summer, taking her to a community meeting to discuss “broken faucets and underfunded schools.”…

more »
Hell or High Water
Making them like they used to

Oh, they do not make heartland crime dramas like they did back in the ’70s—smart, ornery, low of budget and high of attitude. Steeped in seedy characters and lousy luck. Above all lacking in the least amount of body fat, moral or cinematic.

Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, Badlands.

more »
Florence Foster Jenkins
The flat lady sings

Perhaps she was a tragic figure, or a clinical case worthy of Oliver Sacks, or the incarnation of a dishonest middlebrow culture. But in the end, Stephen Frears’s enjoyable, sentimental movie turns this bizarre real-life figure into a version of Eddie the Eagle, swooping and crashing…

more »
Events
Today
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bow Little Market

1:00pm|Belfast Feed Store

Garden Dedication

3:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Blues, Brews & BBQ

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Vintner Dinner

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Riverwalk Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Riverwalk Park

Move to Amend

6:00pm|Mount Vernon

Fiction Writing Group

6:00pm|Village Books,

Elizabeth Park Concert Series

6:00pm|Elizabeth Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Northwood Steak and Crab Andrew Subin
Tomorrow
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

What's Next?

9:00am|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Summer Concert Series Finale

6:00pm|Seafarers Park

Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Farm Tunes

6:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Final Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Wine and Music

7:00pm|Artifacts Cafe and Wine Bar

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Saturday
5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Sedro Car Show

9:00am|United General Fitness Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Island Market

10:00am|Islander Grocery

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Wondermud

10:00am|Bellingham BMX

Discover Birch Bay Days

10:00am|Birch Bay Drive

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Improv for Kids

10:30am|Improv Playworks

Fidalgo Bay Day

11:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

A Swinging Weekend

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Holly Street History Tour

1:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

This Old House

2:00pm|Point Roberts Community Center

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Drinking for Dogs

4:00pm|Green Frog Acoustic Tavern

Downtown Throwdown

4:00pm|Public Market

Scary Monster & the Super Creeps

5:00pm|Heart of Anacortes

Toys for Tots Benefit Concert

5:00pm|Eagle Haven Winery

Moonlight in Margaritaville

5:30pm|Maple Hall

An Evening with Ann Morris

7:30pm| Lummi Island Library

Circus on the Water

8:00pm|Lookout Arts Quarry and Boundary Bay Brewery

see our complete calendar »

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Swinomish 2016 Andrew Subin Northwood Steak and Crab 5 Point Film Festival Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market Artifacts Wine Bar