Posted by: lifelessonswithjeremyirons | March 3, 2011

Lesson 3 – Love is blind: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

“Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties.” ~Jules Renard

The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a study of love and morality. I  hesitate to use the word love because it appears to really be about lust rather than love. This movie is an adaptation of John Fowles’ novel of the same name. In order to use both of the endings that Fowles created for the novel screenwriter Harold Pinter created two storylines that run parallel to each other each acting out one of the two endings.

Jeremy Irons plays Charles/Mike. Charles is a palaeontologist in Victorian England that is engaged to Ernestine.  Mike is the actor that portrays Charles in the movie who is engaged in an affair with fellow actress Anna who is portraying the French Lieutenant’s Woman, Sarah Woodruff.

Fowles story is carefully constructed so that it obscures Sarah Woodruff’s true intentions. You’re never quite sure if she is deliberately misleading Charles or mentally ill or genuinely broken-hearted. The reason behind her actions seems to not matter to Charles who is intrigued and sympathetic to her plight.

Intertwined with this plotline is the story of Mike and Anna who are working together as actors portraying Charles and Sarah. Their story unravels more slowly with it being revealed first that Anna has a significant other and later revealing Mike has a wife and daughter. Mike is clearly in love with Anna while she seems to regard him as just a fling. Mike attempts to make his feelings known to Anna and wants the relationship to be a more permanent one but she avoids the subject.

Charles and Sarah’s story is the one that dominates the movie. Charles is slowly engulfed by Sarah’s life leading to him carelessly throwing away his engagement to Ernestine. He is so obsessed with Sarah he doesn’t even consider the consequences of his pursuit of her.

As the viewer I found it hard to buy into Charles obsession with Sarah. She comes across as either mentally ill or extremely manipulative.  She slowly draws Charles in by pushing him away until she finally confesses her full story.  I really couldn’t sympathize with her at all.  It’s not that I agree with the Victorian ideas of morality and reputation but to me she came across as a woman deluded into believing she was in love with someone whom, by her own admission, wasn’t worthy of her. She makes no apologies for her behaviour and she certainly doesn’t seem to regret her actions.

Watching Charles’ life fall apart due to his obsession with her was maddening to watch.  Even after it is revealed to him that she lied to him about the French Lieutenant he still wants to marry her. He throws away his engagement to Ernestine and proceeds to return to Sarah only to find that she has left in his absence. He wastes another three years of his life searching for her and when he finds her she doesn’t even have a satisfactory reason for why she ran off.

I’d like to take this story the way it was meant as a tremendous love story but I just can’t see it. Perhaps at this point in my life I’ve just gotten too cynical and jaded to actually believe in love that way. After all my experiences I just can’t allow myself to sympathize with characters that throw all logic away in pursuit of love.

I disliked Anna and Mike even more because they were engaged in an affair and that is something I just don’t believe there is ever an excuse for.

The only lesson I gleaned from this movie is that if you abandon logic and reason in favour of love you will find yourself being ruined. This is definitely a lesson I’ve already learned the hard way.

Posted by: lifelessonswithjeremyirons | June 14, 2010

Great news!

I’ve been asked to join my friends Greg and Ryan as a regular host on the podcast Criticalmasscast. My first regular show recording is this week. Look for it at on Thursday or Friday of this week. I’m so excited to have a place to share my love of film and television and pop culture. Hope you enjoy!

Posted by: lifelessonswithjeremyirons | February 9, 2010

Lesson 2 – Some people: Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited

Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people stay for awhile and move our souls to dance. They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same.” ~ Flavia Weedn

I have seen the movie Brideshead Revisited before but not the version with Jeremy Irons.  Two years ago there was a remake done with Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain, which was the stand-out performance of the film, but it did not endear me to the story. The 1981 version with Jeremy Irons gave me much more to consider.

There are many themes that run throughout this story: the burden of religious zealotry and the influence parents have on their children. However, What stood out to me in this movie was those moments in your life in which you meet someone and you know instantly that they will change your life forever.

There have been plenty of moments in my life in which I have met people and knew at that moment that they would be influential in my growth.  In Brideshead Revisited you see that moment clearly on Charles’ face when Sebastian leans through the window of his room and throws up on the floor. He is immediately
drawn to him and you know his life will be forever altered because of this person.

Sebastian offers Charles an escape from the ‘safe’ path he had been following.  He introduces him to a world of wealth and excess and to his very Roman Cathloic family.  Charles’ relationship with Sebastian seems to focus him more clearly on his career as an artist which he didn’t pursue very strongly till after his visits to Brideshead.

As with most relationships of the transformative nature something changes and that person who was once influential in your life becomes someone you no longer share anything with. Sometimes they do things you cannot agree with and cause you to end the relationship. They arrive, impart their lessons and then leave.  This is what happens to Sebastian and Charles’ friendship. Sebastian’s alcohol addiction
essentially ends their relationship and Charles moves on to a life that Sebastian’s influence had a hand in creating.

Brideshead Revisited is a movie that caused me to reflect on my past and thepeople that forever altered me. It reminds you of those great moments full of lessons but also of joy. It makes you nostalgic for those moments because you remember how good they were.  Time has the ability to remove any unpleasantness connected with those memories and all you now see are the good things.

It can bring back the ache of loss for the person who brought you to a new understanding of yourself. For a moment you can return to those times and remember what was so life-altering and it serves to reinforce for you why you became the person you are. It can give you the courage to forge new paths in
places you may never have considered before those experiences left you altered. It creates a world not born until that person helped you create it.

We are created not just by our own design but by experiences and the people around us. So while one person may be exiting your life forever if you wait patiently and keep your eyes open someone new could just be around the corner.

Posted by: lifelessonswithjeremyirons | November 26, 2009

Not part of the agenda

So I’m still in the middle of watching Brideshead Revisited. Stay tuned for that update later.

This post is not part of the original project but it seems connected to the intention for which I started this blog.

In my first post here I mentioned that I admired Jeremy Irons fearlessness and ability to take risks. Well about a month ago I met an actor and he is like Jeremy Irons: a brave soul who is willing and able to take risks.

I feel like the wish I put forth on this blog to learn to be braver is being fulfilled. Not just through this project but through crossing paths with Michael who is to be my new roommate.

Michael likes to find my boundaries and push them out a little. I won’t lie, it’s uncomfortable and scary. In fact there are times when he scares me so much I’d really like to bolt in the other direction. Half the time I can’t even look him in the face because I feel like he can see right inside my head.

I worry about what he’ll think when he sees me trying. I worry that I’ll make a mistake. I worry that I’ll just look stupid or worse yet I’m worried I’ll fail. Despite all this I have tried new things.

Three weeks ago I sang Karaoke in a bar for the first time. I was really scared but Michael wouldn’t let me back down. In the end it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Just last week I was back trying again and this time I really improved.

Ok, so singing Karaoke in a bar is a small thing to some but not to me. Standing up there in front of all those people makes me feel really vulnerable. I’m not too keen on that feeling.

I admire Michael for being able to do stuff like that without fear and doing it well. I hope that eventually I can be as strong.

Posted by: lifelessonswithjeremyirons | October 3, 2009

Lesson 1: Life and love is hard in a small town

Jeremy Irons as Alex Sanderson in Love for Lydia

Jeremy Irons as Alex Sanderson in Love for Lydia

Love for Lydia

This movie is my first indicator that looking for wisdom or life lessons in movies is perhaps not a great idea. The only thing this mini-series did for me was confirm what I already knew about life in a small town.

I like to say I’m from a small town but many people would dispute this fact based on population. All I can say is that it may not have been small in numbers but it is certainly small in it’s thinking.

The characters in Love For Lydia very much reminded me of the group of friends I had in my early 20s. Like the characters of Edward, Lydia, Alex, Tom and Nancy we did everything together. We were always going out together as one big group. We were together almost every day.

Through these characters I saw how different people react to the problems and challenges one faces when growing up in a place without much opportunity. Edward wallows in his apathy, Alex drinks himself into oblivion, Tom and Nancy avoid the issues and focus on the family farm and Lydia uses them all for her own amusement.

Some people thrive in this kind of environment while others struggle to find their purpose within it. I was one of those people who could not find a place within it. I always felt like I didn’t fit in because I wanted more and couldn’t find it there. So many of my friends were content with life there. It was simple, predictable and safe. For the years I lived there I believed there was something wrong with me because I didn’t fit in. It never occurred to me that there could be something wrong with the place.

It is very easy to fall into a pattern, like Edward does, of getting up, going to work, coming home and doing it all over again the next day. You hate your job but you don’t think there is anything else as opportunities are limited. You learn to be content with mediocrity. As a result you just keep the vicious circle of boredom and misery going until all you have left is apathy.

When you’re in a hole like that it never occurs to you that you can get out. Edward wants to be a writer but he lacks the ambition to get himself to start. He mopes around in a job he hates instead of trying to find a way to improve his situation. Once he becomes fascinated with Lydia he shifts his focus to her needs which allows him to forget his own. Lydia becomes his drug of choice as long as he’s with her he doesn’t have to face the reality of his own situation.

Edward’s friend Alex’s way of coping represented the strategy of a lot of people I knew growing up – drinking. Alex is a rich man already having achieved financial success. He delighted in the challenge of growing his wealth but now his business runs without him and his purpose is gone.

It’s never really explained why Alex doesn’t just leave town and seek adventure elsewhere. He certainly has the money to be able to afford to travel. He, like all the other characters, lacks the ambition to find another solution to his misery.

None of the characters had the will to change their lives. They weren’t happy but they did not take responsibility for their own unhappiness. They didn’t even acknowledge that they were unhappy. They would rather find ways to mask their unhappiness rather than deal with it.

Having been in their position of lacking purpose in the place they were born, I understand the difficulty involved in making a choice to change. It’s easier to blame fate or everybody else rather than realize that you’re the only one who can change what is wrong in your life.

Edward finally leaves his hometown near the end of the series but it is not in an attempt to change his life. He leaves to escape Lydia and the guilt he feels over Alex and Tom’s deaths. When he returns he has achieved his ambition to be a writer and goes back to Lydia who had used and abused him. Neither him nor Lydia changed for the better. Edward didn’t seem to learn anything from his many ordeals.

I already knew life was difficult in a small town but I would have liked to have seen someone triumph over it rather than escape just to go running back to it.

I am too old to be considered young and too young to be considered old. I am a thirty something who still doesn’t know what their talents are. I feel like it’s too late in time to be going through this because someone of my age should have it all figured out. My friends certainly do. They know what they want and how to get it.

I wake up in the morning because I have a job to get to. I get up because I am an adult and that is what adults do. They get up, get dressed, have breakfast and go to work. I do it because I have to. I’m always good at doing things I have to but I don’t think that says anything about me.

The reason this blog is titled Life Lessons with Jeremy Irons is because his fearlessness impressed me. Seeing him interviewed made me think that I could learn a lot from him. He doesn’t choose the easy path as an actor and he isn’t afraid to risk. Right away it was clear to me that this was a quality I did not possess but it was one I greatly admired.

If Rudy, my drama camp director, taught me anything it was that you can learn a lot about life from drama. It teaches you how to communicate, how to listen and most of all it teaches you understanding.

It gives you a safe place to experience choices and emotions you may not pursue in real life. You can make mistakes as a character and experience the consequences of those actions without impacting your own life. You learn by observation. It can completely change your mind about something or it can reassure you of your own choices and beliefs.

With that in my mind I perused the list of movies that Jeremy Irons has been in. Right away two of the titles stood out as being ones I would skip – Dead Ringers and Lolita. Dead Ringers struck me as being a horror film and I can’t watch those. Lolita put me off because it seemed to essentially be about a pedophile.

Then I saw Mr. Irons interviewed on In the Actor’s Studio and the way he spoke about the two films made me second guess my closed-mindedness. It made me ask myself : what about these movies so scared me that I would close my mind to them without even having seen them? How can you judge something you know nothing about? I liked that it made me question something that I had held myself to for so long.

From this sparked the idea to watch Mr. Irons’ films in chronological order and see what other lessons I could learn. To make sure I stick to the task I realized I needed a way to make me accountable and thus this blog was born.

Through this little project I hope that I will discover the nature of the barriers I have put in my own path and how I may remove them. I think that even if I don’t discover the answers that the journey in itself will be a lesson.