Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Duchess

Last Saturday night I went to see The Duchess, the new film starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. Truthfully, I didn't expect much. Mostly because I hadn't heard anything about the film; no one was telling me that it was a "must see." But I did enjoy it. It wasn't the greatest film I've ever seen, but it kept my attention and has given me things to think about. You can't ask much more of a movie.

I'm not going to summarize it. It is, of course, a costume drama but it is a tribute to the film that, although the costumes were stupendous, I found myself forgetting to look closely at them. It wasn't so much that the story was gripping (it wasn't) but that the glimpse into a time when women had no rights whatsoever and were treated like chattel, even women of the highest station in England, was like a car crash - I couldn't look away.

The sole purpose of Georgianna (Keira Knightley's character) as far as her husband, her mother and most of the rest of society was concerned was to give her husband a male heir. She was expected to endure his affairs, illegitimate children and coldness while being held to completely different standard entirely (Ralph Fiennes gives a wonderful performance of the slightly stupid, cold but utterly pragmatic Duke of Devonshire).

Any woman who thinks they would like to have lived in an earlier time period as long as they could belong to the ruling class would think twice after seeing this.