Sunday, September 12, 2010

the namesake

i took a break from writing my prospectus (which, by the way, is now about the film the women) to eat dinner, fold laundry, and watch my latest netflix rental, agatha christie: a life in pictures.

being named after her, and being a great fan of her mysteries, i was pleased that the bbc once again has made a great film. the plot basically follows the story of her life, but tells it in an unconventional way, playing with a consciousness about cinema and performance, and playing with the convention of the mystery genre.

the film opens with agatha sitting with a pyschotherapist, who is trying to help her piece her life back together after she has gone missing for over ten days and loses her memory. the therapist is trying to help her to piece together why she went into a breakdown, and what happened to her while she was missing. the thrilling part about this is that this is a true story: agatha christie was actually presumed dead until she was finally discovered in the harrogate hotel, residing under the alias mrs. neel.

it's only natural, i suppose, that a famous mystery author should have such a mystery of her own. but it's also sad that she had such a terrible first marriage. so if you are feeling sorry for her, i will assure you that the film ends on a triumphant note, with her second marriage being to a much kinder man whom she loved until the end of her life: an archeologist, in fact, who just suited her taste for mysteries and drama, and who was able to fuel some of the inspirations behind some of her novels, like death on the nile.

the movie's use of time-stop-motion and filtered lighting is also effective both in creating the sense that, as we watch her personal narrative unfold in fragmented flashbacks, we feel we're becoming part of her psyche as she struggles to remember; and it is artistic, drawing us in by the curiosity to understand what these eyes are that we keep seeing close ups of, or what draws her mind (i.e., our cinematic image of) back to the image of the swing she played on as a girl.

the film's consciousness of its own theatrics, as i say, is also well done–not tacky, but at times heightens the unease of the memories we are witnessing. at other times it's playful, as when the film uses time-stop-motion to let agatha's second husband perform directly to the camera and pretend to be a magician by 'conjuring' up her novels as we are told by her in voiceover about her increasing success as a novelist.

so that is my evening. i must get back to writing my prospectus now, but thanks to netflix for recommending this excellent flick.

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