See this film: “The Deep Blue Sea” (2011)

28 March 2012

It’s the strangest feeling, being with this man. Her attraction to him overwhelms her, almost to the point of making her unselfconscious of her facial expressions. Hester (Rachel Weisz) catches herself every now and then, gazing at him (Tom Hiddleston) with such naked longing that she might well have drool coming out the corner of her mouth.

Women like her — educated, beautiful, refined, and let’s not forget married — aren’t supposed to act like this, feel like this. Women like her spend their lives staying under control. What you realize in watching her face is that this is precisely the state of being that women like her, like us, like me, both desire and fear with every ounce of our beings.

What started this feeling? The fact that he told her how beautiful she is, all those months ago? Or is it a chemical dynamism — his smell, his taste, all of it combines to make her so wild for him?

One night, as she spoons his sleeping, lanky naked body — her face only reaches his angular shoulder — she opens her mouth and gives that shoulder a long, satisfying lick.

It’s so telling, really, that she would try to spoon him. Ridiculous because he’s so tall; their bodies don’t fit together in that configuration. But that’s the way of their relationship: she always reaches out for more, while he only seems there with her about half the time.

That’s the fear, of course. It’s not just that Freddie doesn’t have the same passion for her, no matter how charming he can be. It’s that her own passion feels so boundless, even increasingly so as he retreats. Her passion for him, enhanced by the periods of his withdrawal, goes to dangerous places.

Whereas this relationship unearths new depths of love and sexual excitement in her, it reveals Freddie’s true shallowness. He has no idea what to do with his woman who so willingly enslaves herself to him.

That passion was nowhere to be found in her marriage to William (Simon Russell Beale), the respectable barrister and judge. No matter how much he loved her (and he tries in vain to persuade her that he loved her very much indeed), this new love of hers makes her almost disdainful of other forms.

One time her husband accuses her of feeling mere lust for Freddie. It’s a good guess, but wrong nevertheless. How could he know anything like this love?

At rare moments she regains her self-control. Not just for Freddie’s or William’s benefit, but because it helps her to see the situation more clearly. The situation is a mess. Even in her effort to draw back inside herself, we see the truth: her desire is a problem.

Isn’t that how it always is? Desire causes problems. Especially in women. Women are supposed to be the desired, not the desirers. Women are supposed to appear nicely put together, in clothes that flatter them like the deep blues she wears so often. What problems will be unleashed when she releases her self control?

Academics often speak of women’s desire as a problem that resists intellectualization. What to do with the woman who’s harassed into that affair with her boss, but she falls for him in the end? What to do with the exotic dancer who says she loves sex? It’s so embarrassing, so weak, so much what we don’t want these women to do.

Watching Weisz’s face register these emotions makes the dangers of desire as palpable as I’ve ever seen it onscreen. She has no filter left. It’s not the flashiest role in town, but it’s Oscar-worthy for its rawness. As beautiful as she is — is there another actress more beautiful than Rachel Weisz? — her face startles you with its nakedness and lack of control to the point that you realize she is all of us, she is you and me.

Except unlike the rest of us, she has committed herself to a form of love as risky as it is life-altering and intermittently fulfilling. And when we watch her wrestle with that commitment, we feel how much she wrestles with the problem of her own desire. When Freddie’s absent, her desire lingers and floats around those drab postwar rooms, like the clouds of smoke she exhales — smoke that has nowhere to go except back into the pores of her skin, into the shabby upholstered furniture, into the dark recesses of that depressing flat.

What a gorgeous, thought-provoking film, and such a rich revival of the women’s weeper/ melodrama. And what an amazing actress that Rachel Weisz has become in such short order.

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9 Responses to “See this film: “The Deep Blue Sea” (2011)”

  1. JB Says:

    Seeing this next week so I’m trying not to read your post. Which is hard because it opens quite intriguingly.

  2. Didion Says:

    Oh, JB, you’re the perfect person to see this film, with all your obsessions with erotic firefighting and cunty bullocks. I can hardly wait to see what manner of index terms you use for this one.

  3. JB Says:

    Hopefully Blogger will fix the problem I’m currently having with editing my index by the time I write about Deep Blue Sea. Every time I try to make a change and hit “save” nothing happens. Or worse yet, the entire thing vanishes…

    Anyway, I will endeavour to be on my Index-filing game. And I hope to get over my more recent frustrations with Davies’ work. (Aspects of his preceding one irked me.)

    • Didion Says:

      Was that the song to Liverpool? I started watching it (streaming) but quit after 30 minutes. But it’s always different when you’re in a theater and/or spent $13.50 to get yourself into that seat.

      • JB Says:

        Yeah, I did see it in the cinema, great projection, attentive audience… and the crusty curmudgeonliness still wore me down. And let me say that I sometimes feel quite warm to curmudgeons. Shit, I’ve read everything by Milan Kundera! Some of them twice!

  4. Hattie Says:

    I’ll go see it. Without my husband!

  5. Al Says:

    This is such a beautifully written piece it makes me want to see the film, even though I know I’ll be wrecked afterwards.

    • Didion Says:

      Wow, thanks, Al! And the film doesn’t just wallow, you’ll be pleased to hear. And let’s not forget that watching Rachel Weisz let herself loose like this is worth all the money in China.


  6. […] because – as I was gathering links for this post – I came across this gorgeous review from the blog Feminéma. However, other reviews warn me that this film is very slow and very […]


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