Category Archives: crying

Rome, Open City (1945)

Mum and Dad were up this weekend and I was keen to show Dad The Phoenix cinema. After a lovely Sunday lunch, we went off to see Rosselini’s ‘Roma Citta Operta’.

I thought it was magnificent. Very few films make me actually cry full tears, but Magnani’s acting and the heart-breaking ending had me blubbing immediately.

I highly recommend this blunt, raw masterpiece that, having been made just after the war on a shoe string, has a mesmerising and brutal quality. I feel very lucky to have seen it on the big screen.

7. Joint 93rd – The Seventh Seal’ 1957

I have seen The Seventh Seal before and actually used it in lessons when teaching Chaucer’s context and my recent Medieval lyrics lecture. I love the feeling of the middle ages that it gives – harsh and sparse and it is also really useful when describing the black death, the dance of death and death poetry (that I did for my dissertation) However, although I love Scandinavian pretty much everything, Ingmar Bergman is director I am not that familiar with, although one of Uncle John’s books was about him, so I will try to rectify that.  I already like that his favourite American director was Billy Wilder.

Doing my lecture on Medieval poetry.  I used a clip from this film.

Doing my lecture on Medieval poetry. I used a clip from this film.t

Of course my first knowledge of it was from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey when I was about seven. The opening sequence on the beach is still great and so iconic and I love that my enjoyment is a mix of high-brow and low-brow. I have also recently been teaching The Exorcist and it is great seeing Max Von Sydow so young and virile, even though it was only sixteen years before. It is also a parallel role, he is still concerned with the reality of God, but this time he is the doubting Agnostic.  I love the questioning of religion. Bergman seems to have picked this period as so heightened and intense that everyone must have been questioning it. It’s an endless question and the chiaroscuro seems to heighten the philosophy.

Watching The Seventh Seal

Watching The Seventh Seal

I really like how dry and funny Death is. When my inevitable death does happen, I kind of hope it is like that. It’s great when the knight thinks he is confessing to him and he gets him to reveal all his chess moves and when he starts cutting down the tree while someone is still in it.  His impish face and glinting eyes are suitably mischievous.

The black and white cinematography is beautiful. A shiny black and pure white, I think the Swedish white light must be helping it. A Scandinavian summer is so beautiful and the scenes of the circus performers enjoying it are idyllic.  Mixed with that the large landscapes with cloudy skies are beautiful.

One of my favourite scenes, and the one I used in my Medieval poetry lecture, is the chanting procession.  I love the contrast created by the juxtaposition of performers and the religious flagellation party. That scene could be ancient, it has feelings of Griffith’s Intolerance and the 1928 The Passion of Joan  of Arc by Dreyer. Some of the close-ups, especially of women crying and the long high angle shots create a timeless feeling.

Other thoughts:

  • The scene where the actor is bullied in the tavern is horrible and made especially frightening by the oppressive camera framing and heavy shadows.
  • This is continued with the dark scenes of the girl who has been accused of bringing the plague.
  • The reactions of everyone at the knight’s home when death finally appears is amazing. The way they are so calm with almost angelic close-ups and are then taken off on the dance of death across the skyline is a great moment. No-one can resist it forever.

Creative:
Black and white
Huge landscapes
Period setting
Game playing
Holy relics and questioning faith

An emotional day.

My mum texted me on the 13th October to ask if I would like to go to the V&A ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibition during my half-term week.  Of course I would.  I had heard it was coming and couldn’t wait to see it.  I used to want to be a costume designer (which explains my A Level choices – textiles, history and English – no film studies in those days) and the power and importance of costume in film, as well as the amazing glamour, has alway fascinated me.

We arranged to go on the 23rd as I was going to be down in London for an Amanda Palmer gig anyway (dream day!) and it was the day before my mum started her radiotherapy.  We decided that it would be good to take her mind off it.  We met outside the doors at midday, had a lovely French lunch, a quick trip to Skandium (even more of a dream day) and then went in to the exhibition at just before 3.

Waiting to go in…

I don’t think I had prepared myself properly for what I was going to see.  One of the first costumes was Vivien Leigh’s green curtain dress from ‘Gone With The Wind’ and it made me cry.  I think it was the combination of my mum being poorly (and my sister Joey),  and the fact that I was so happy to be there with her, she had introduced me to the film when I was twelve.  I watched it twice in a row the first time I saw it (that’s seven and a half hours) and then every day for the entire holiday.  I watched it while writing a list of every costume change that Vivien Leigh made (I’m sure I have the list somewhere…), I have the poster over my fireplace in my current flat, a jigsaw, books on the film and its stars…  I haven’t watched it for years now, but it is part of my childhood and so to be faced with a physical representation of that was too much for me.  I felt like an hysterical Catholic faced with the relic of a saint.  But it felt lovely and comforting and surreal.

Yes – that one!

The whole exhibition is amazing, I recommend everyone to go and see it.