Day 4 – A movie that makes you feel sad
There are a few films that I have watched once but make me so sad/frustrated that I can not watch them again… Sophie’s Choice is one of them and Schindler’s List another. Truly excellent movies I both saw long ago but so sad I can’t watch them again.
So, I’m going to pick a movie here that, although it makes me sad, I do go back to it again and again and that is the 2006 movie The Painted Veil with Edward Norton (such a quietly brilliant actor) and Naomi Watts (brilliant in this as well).
The Painted Veil is the story (set in the 1920s) of bacteriologist Walter Fane who instantly falls in love with vain socialite Kitty and convinces her to marry him although both of them know that she is not in love with him. They travel to Walter’s post in Shanghai where Kitty starts an affair with a married British vice consul (Liev Schreiber, who is Naomi Watts’ partner in real life). She is found out, of course, and Walter ends up taking her to an isolated mountainous inland region in China where he has accepted a post to combat cholera. The story is the story of a couple who are really at odds with each other but in the end do slowly find to each other.
The atmosphere of the movie is haunting in a way, there’s a sense of heartache and doom. The music by Erik Satie that is used a few times throughout the movie underlines that, as does the music written by Alexander Desplat (with piano played by Lang Lang).
Kitty is a bit of an airhead and Walter is cruel to her and wants to punish her once he realizes she has betrayed him by exiling her and himself to the inhospitable inlands in China. However, this exile is what saves their relationship when they are almost all alone and must learn to make do with each other. It takes quite a while for them to really connect, for Kitty to appreciate that Walter is not so ‘dry’ as he seems and for Walter to appreciate that Kitty has more to offer than just a beautiful facade. These characters are both so flawed that it feels almost miraculous when they do finally find to each other and that’s what makes this movie so beautiful to me. Overcoming almost impossible odds can lead to something very special; people who seem miles away from each other can ultimately find good qualities in the other and make a profound connection.
Then, of course, more things happen that I don’t want to spoil here and by the time when, close to the end, the French song “A La Claire Fontaine” starts playing I am a blubbering mess… each and every time!
It’s not a hit movie and I know some critics found it distant and hard to connect with the characters, but I really have to disagree with that. Yes, there is an iciness in Walter’s and Kitty’s relationship that makes the Antarctic feel warm but it’s the eventual thawing that makes this movie so beautiful to me. Ultimately it’s just heartbreaking and my go-to “it’s OK to wallow in sadness” movie. If you’re not put off by all of this, here’s the trailer:
Ah, and I now also see that the movie can be watched in it’s entirety on YouTube, here’s the playlist (in 12 parts):