Spoiler alert!!!

I caught this movie being “offered” on youtube. It’s very interesting, but you wouldn’t tell this from the ridiculous beginning.

I agree with many of the things written here on the movie, by Douglas Messerli. It’s bizarre how the movie starts and continues for quite some time with this light and peppy and very old-fashioned (to us) comedy tone. The jokes revolving around the old neighbor (as one of many men) flirting and running after Celestine just make you groan. The somewhat one-dimensional or very exaggerated characters also. Then before you know it, the movie quickly and inexplicably transitions into this intense and dark drama, a transition that makes no sense, but then it’s when the good part of the movie begins.

Something very special happened in my experience watching the movie. Because of this boring, overly silly, and very sexist beginning, I just started skipping ahead to see what the next parts of the movie would bring. It’s then that I came across one of the most romantic and thrilling scenes I have seen in a long while, when the two enamored “heroes” finally come together and admit their love for each other. When things reach a climax and Georges sees that he is going to lose Celestine to the evil valet Joseph, he finally breaks free of his life-long passivity and submission to his profoundly domineering mother to fight for his love. Thus he goes after Celestine and challenges her to admit her hidden love for him by kissing him.  He tells her she is afraid to admit her feelings for him – that’s why she won’t kiss him. Finally Celestine, in a dramatic action,  passionately kisses Georges as they sweepingly embrace, as a testament of her love and the belated admission of her feelings for him. What a magnificent kiss because of the context. Ah, so romantic, I thought, so sweet, so lovely, so powerful.

After I finished watching the movie, I went online to find out more about it. Especially because of this detailed Messerli critique, I learned that among the several bits of the movie that I skipped as I fast-forwarded, was the information that Georges has tuberculosis and is doomed. So his challenging Celestine about her being afraid of kissing him was not, as I thought as I watched the scene, a lovely emotional challenge for her to admit her love for him, but a challenge that she would not kiss him because she could become ill as a result of the contact. Oh, for Christ’s sake. There went my most beautiful romantic scene. The actual meaning is tragic and awful. He’s going to die. But they admit their love to each other. So 19th century! As Messerli says, “Even if he has somewhat regained his health [ thanks in part to the realized love of the couple], we know he is doomed, given the intensity of his illness, to live only a few years.”

With this new spoiled understanding of what was my beautiful romantic scene with no tuberculosis and therefore a “lived happily ever after” ending, I mentioned my tragic discovery of the meaning of the lines to an acquaintance. And how awful that made the whole ending. They offered back a small silver lining. “I don’t know if everybody who had tuberculosis ended up dying in those days”. True, I hadn’t thought of that. My friend has a point. I mean, even during the Middle Ages plagues, there were people who were resistant and didn’t die. There! Georges will just have to be one of them. I refuse to go look up the question of tuberculosis resistance on the Internet because I want to keep with me the thought that he just might have survived, and with him, their love.

And, as an additional bonus, as the movie gets into its dramatic half, I saw what is potentially the best dramatic scene I have ever seen in a movie about material greed. It’s the scene where Joseph and Madame Lanlaire, Georges’ mother, desperately fight  for the piles of the shiny silverware. The silverware is greatly chosen as symbols of  wealth and fortune – and it truly stands out visually – and of their mutual naked and vile greediness.  The powerful acting,  lungings, wrestlings, viperous verbal attacks, the blackmailing, the manipulations, their absolute desperateness as they try to hang on to or take control of the silverware – everything is brilliant. As a magnificent additional touch is Lanlaire’s husband in the background, smacked by his wife back into his passive role, visibly in the throes of utmost despair about how their lives have unraveled, as the two more strong willed characters fight it out in the foreground.

Now that is good drama!

Just one last note: one other addition of excellent acting comes from Celestine’s fellow servant  Louise (Irene Ryan)— “who cannot even walk across the room without the bearing the weight of her sense of worthlessness”. Not such an easy thing to pull off.