Recent Movies

We’ve watched some interesting movies lately, so I thought I’d share as much with you. Maybe you haven’t seen these ones.

Byron – this was a lovely period piece by the BBC. I think it was made originally for television as it is in two episodes. As always with the BBC, the period details are exquisite. It’s a biography of Byron, the poet who was said to be “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. Here’s his bio on Wiki. The interesting thing about Byron is that his life is essentially the inspiration for every Regency romance you’ve ever read – he’s the dangerous rake, but he marries the sweet intellectual who adores him to bits. (He called his wife Anne Isabella Millbank “the princess of parallelograms”.) The difference in this Regency romance is that in real life, there was no HEA. Their marriage worked out very badly – her goodness, according to Byron, didn’t make him better but made him worse. A bit of a sad piece, but interesting all the same.

Bright Star – another story of another poet, another period piece. This one was directed by Jane Campion and is the story of John Keats, the romantic poet who died so very young. He died at 25, believing himself to be a failure. What’s interesting is how much of his poetry is familiar – some of it is recited in the film and though I’ve never studied 19th c English poets or read Keats (to my recollection) I knew lines of his work. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Here’s the Wiki on the movie. It was quite beautifully filmed and very evocative of the period. I really enjoyed it, although (again) it wasn’t particularly upbeat.

Woman in Black – another dark little story. This one is a ghost story set in (presumably) the Victorian era in what looks like Northumberland. It’s shot in colour but very close to black and white, and is quite atmospheric. Daniel Radcliffe stars in this one, having made an escape from the Harry Potter movies, and he does a very good job. Here’s the Wiki on the movie. The movie is based upon a book written by Susan Hill – and here’s another good way to find new authors. I’ve ordered a couple of her books to read as a result of seeing this movie.

How about you? Have you watched any interesting movies lately?

Another Interesting Book

A while ago, I saw the movie Anonymous. If you haven’t seen it, it’s either historical fiction or historical speculation – the idea is that somebody else wrote Shakespeare’s plays, specifically a nobleman named Edward de Vere. The movie told his story. It was beautifully photographed and very evocative of Elizabethan England. The chronology of the story was a bit convoluted though, so we watched it twice. (This is the advantage of waiting for a movie to be available for rent, rather than going to the movie theater!) Overall, I liked it and was intrigued by its hypothesis.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a book called “SHAKESPEARE” BY ANOTHER NAME: THE LIFE OF EDWARD DE VERE, EARL OF OXFORD, THE MAN WHO WAS SHAKESPEARE by Mark Anderson. (This is the advantage of having bricks and mortar bookstores to browse through – you can find books you didn’t know existed and synchronicity gets a little more room to play.) It’s a really interesting book. Again, it follows the life of de Vere and builds a case for him being the real author of Shakespeare’s plays. There’s no hard evidence but so many coincidences and connections that you have to wonder. I’m not an expert in this area – I’ve read Shakespeare’s plays and seen many productions, but he’s too late for me as a medievalist to know much about him and his world beyond that – but I find this book and its theory very compelling. This idea of de Vere being the actual playright was apparently  suggested a long time ago. Probably there are dozens of papers by Shakespearean scholars arguing in favour of it and against it – maybe I’ll look them up when I’m done. Right now, I’m enjoying the book and the glimpse of de Vere’s life in Elizabethan England.

What about you? Have you read any non-fiction lately that’s made you rethink your assumptions?