Friday, November 16, 2007

Odd Little Movie: Possession (2002)

Odd Little Movie: Possession (2002)

No, it's not about demons. I found it an achingly beautiful bittersweet romance story. The framing story involves two modern scholars who are both way too attractive to be real academics (when I tell you that Gynweth Paltrow plays the feminist literature professor, that alone should tell you how far from reality it is). She and an American grad student try to piece together a mystery involving two Victorian poets from letters, diaries, and other clues. And yes, it is far more watchable than that sounds.

This is, in some ways, a profoundly unPC movie. There's one character who leaves her lifelong lesbian relationship because she falls madly in love with a man.

It is also a film in which people feel free to do as they wish--ignoring conventional morality--and the consequences are very Victorian.

If you are familiar with the story of Dante Rossetti and burying a book of his poems with his wife--and then retrieving it six years later--well, you will recognize the odd little reference to that, too.

It may remind you a bit of National Treasure or The Da Vinci Code as our two scholars rush around from archive to decaying English manor house to library--and there is a willingness to abscond with primary sources that I assure you, real scholars would never do. (Of course, I used to think that real scholars wouldn't just make stuff up, either.) There is also a bit less use of white gloves when handling antique papers and items than would really happen. But still, it does capture something of the excitement of scholarly investigation, and adds a dollop of romance on top of it all.

Okay, maybe I'm partial to this movie because I'm married to someone whose specialty in grad school was Victorian literature. One aspect of the film that really, really grabbed me at a very visceral level was how the actors managed to convey with subtlety and surprising economy of words and gestures the excitement of two people falling in love. You don't really realize, until you see a film this deftly made, that most films manage to only give you the impression of animal lust. There is a bit of that involved as well, of course, but this film makes me remember the magnetism that comes from two similar minds that are attracted to each other.

This film brought back an enormously powerful set of memories of when I met my wife, and for the first time, I found not just someone that I enjoyed being around, but another soul that rang in perfect harmony--and the rush of that first kiss.

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