Monday, January 07, 2019

Great Moments In Movie Shelves #174

"It was the room in which most of the 
real things of his life had happened."

The narrator of Martin Scorsese's masterpiece The Age of Innocence (you know, just Joanne Woodward) says that line above at very nearly the end of the movie, right before listing off all of the things that would go on to happen in Newland's study -- his son was christened and took his first steps there; he'd kissed his daughter through her veil before driving her to the church on her wedding day. Woodward tells us all of this as the camera spins around 360 degrees and gives us glimpses of time passing...

... in one of Marty's typically effortless camera master-strokes, showing us how this man's entire life could be narrowed down and confined to a single cramped room, four walls lined floor to ceiling with beautiful objects and bookshelves bearing in and down. At one point earlier in the film Archer takes down one of those books...

... and dares to dream about running off to see those spectacular lands pictured - India or Japan, really as far as all that - but as sure as they're just two-dimensional ideas tapping against the tips of his fingers he's not alone, he's never alone, and his beloved betrothed May is there to smirk and pooh-pooh his wayward dreams of a wilder life. There will be no new lands for Newland. As if she sensed his fantasies coming (and she always does, all the quicker to gently snuff them out) May seems dressed perfectly for the occasion...

Her orientalist-inspired pale pink floral dressing gown is all the travel he's gonna get. This room, lined with gorgeous dusty objects walling him in, is more or less his tomb, guarded by a dutiful keeper, and it's the scene right before Joanne Woodward lists everything that happens there that makes that the clearest.

That's when May snuffs his dreams out most explicitly, most baldly, telling him he can't leave without her and she isn't going anywhere - she's pregnant now, you see - and anyway she told his one true love to take a hike already, as we see the painted ruins of some far away where-ever swallowed up by the shadows behind her.

My favorite manifestation, though, of May (Winona Ryder, so cutting in her sharply sweet simplicity) dashing Newland's impossible dreams on the rocks comes a few minutes earlier in, of course, this very same room...

... as we see her side-eye a little tumble of embers in the fireplace. A little flame she dutifully tends to, pushing back into place. 

This room, so warm and golden, is so effortlessly contained you 
never even notice anything's wrong until your fingers have gone cold.

1 comment:

paljoey212 said...

So beautifully captured, thank you. This scene makes me cry harder than most.