Monday, 14 January 2013

Kristin Scott Thomas and the power of passion

I could spend a happy few days marvelling at the French of Cheltenham Ladies College-educated Kristin Scott Thomas, the fluent French-speaking great-niece of Peter Scott of the Antarctic, famous for her languishing love for Hugh Grant in "Four Wedding and a Funeral".

The French film "Partir" or "Leaving" (2009) was shown for the first time on BBC Four (TV) last night. In the film, Scott Thomas plays the "40 something" bored English wife of a French doctor. Scott Thomas has her own failed marriage to a French consultant.

In the film, her character is just on the verge of standing on her own two feet, financially, but the Fates intervene, as she falls heavily in love with the local builder, with such passion that it wrecks her life and that of her family. Even losing her wealthy lifestyle means nothing to her.  At one point, with her credit card swallowed at a petrol station, completely without money, she sells her Cartier watch to pay for petrol for herself and her lover to get home.

This film is rightly shown past the "watershed" - it is after all "French" and sophisticated.  It tackles fractured modern relationships, the incompatibility of some marriages, the cruelties of marriage breakdown on children and the dangers of letting our heart rule our head.  The sheer power of protagonist Scott Thomas is unforgettable, at times.

With this disturbing and impressive film still on my mind, I read today Hamlet's words about the power of passion, while he is thinking about his adulterous mother, Gertrude:

"Give me a man that's not passion's slave......  Blessed are those whose blood and judgement are so well commingled (i.e. properly balanced) that they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger to sound what stop she pleases...." ("Hamlet")

Blood means passion and judgement means reason.  Keeping proportion in our feelings is just as important to Shakespeare as keeping perfect proportion in our thoughts.....

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