31 October 2011

25 Oct - "I thought you were planning to stay awhile, but perhaps my sense of smell deceives me"

Mary Reilly (1996)
dir. Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things, 2002)

Julia Roberts (Hook, 1991)
John Malkovitch (Burn After Reading, 2008)
Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, 2010)
Glenn Close (The Big Chill, 1983)
Michael Sheen (Timeline, 2003)
Bronagh Gallagher (The Commitments, 1991)
CiarĂ¡n Hinds (There Will be Blood, 2007)

Here's another spooky movie I watched before Halloween. It's about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from the perspective of the good doctor's maid, the title character. The twist is that it's also sort of a love story. Jekyll/Hyde loves Mary because of her innocence, and Mary loves Dr. Jekyll as well as his evil incarnation. The big question is why, and how is Mary able to love Dr. Hyde even when she knows that he is a vicious heartless killer. Part of it must have something to do with her abusive father. A connection is established when Mary describes him as having a peculiar way of walking, not quite a limp, and later the housekeeper uses almost the same words to describe the gait of Mr. Hyde. At the end of the movie, however, Mary is unable to forgive her father for his sins, but she has no hesitancy in forgiving Dr. Jekyll. I haven't quite figured that out yet.

I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I remember that no symbolism was more salient than the description of the architecture. Luckily, the filmmakers behind Mary Reilly acknowledged this importance and even amped it up a little. Dr. Jekyll's main house is separated from the laboratory by a small courtyard. The laboratory represents the cruelly analytical and mysterious person of Mr. Hyde. However, in the movie the courtyard space itself takes on a symbolic form. Mary Reilly asks if she can plant some flowers in that area, to brighten it up a little. When the flowers finally show up, they are terribly depressing little colorful things barely penetrating the heavy gloom that seems to hang perpetually over Victorian Era England. Thus Mary herself assumes the role of the bridge that connects Jekyll and Hyde int one man.

What I never figured out, or forgot, about the story is whether Dr. Jekyll was attempting to isolate his dark side in order to attain pure morality in his actual person, or whether he was seeking a release from the enforced sociality of his culture. Either way, I do remember that he is seduced by the apparent freedom of Mr. Hyde and his lack of conscience, but as Mary points to the good doctor, there are no actions without consequences and the burden of Mr. Hyde's crimes, combined with Dr. Jekyll's even weakening resolve to remain his true self, ultimately destroys the man.

No comments:

Post a Comment