The Duchess (2008)
I missed this when it first came out, so when it was on tv this holiday I decided to give it a go. In many ways the essential premise has similarities with "A Royal Affair" which I enjoyed so much. A young girl finds herself married to a man who cares more about his dogs than he does about his new wife. The Duke generally likes to get his gratification from ladies elsewhere, but his wife, the Duchess, has no such freedom. The Duchess finds herself pursuing political goals to take her mind off of her horrible situation and falls in love with a man with strong political leanings.
The unique side of this film is that The Duchess was known for drawing attention with fancy outfits. She notes that while men are able to express themselves in many ways a woman during this era's best means of expressing herself is through her clothes. She uses her ability to draw attention in order to promote politicians she supports. The problem is that we get very little idea of what her actual politics are. While she clearly has political friends who know that she has political leanings are no doubt occasionally discuss those with her, the film explores this very little. Instead the film is more focussed on the state of her miserable marriage. This aspect is so central to the film that this ended up, to me, seeming very dull. Horrible marriages were pretty common and I needed to know more about what made The Duchess unique. I don't think that was provided here.
Keira Knightley's acting is great and Ralph Fiennes was wonderful as ever. Unfortunately, those good performances take place within quite a limited script. One of the reasons I loved "A Royal Affair" so much was because it constantly surprised me and somehow managed to exceed the typical conventions of a costume drama. "The Duchess" is more of a typical costume drama and not really a particularly good one.D-Sound Of My Voice (2011)
This is the OTHER film from Brit Marling and though there was talk of it long ago when the other film "Another Earth" was being released, it has taken a long while to reach ordinary people. Finally it's (rather criminally) ended up going straight to DVD. I'd heard reports that of the two Brit Marling movies, this was the better one, and boy were they right. I really enjoyed "Another Earth", but this is phenomenal
The plot surrounds a couple who have decided to infiltrate a cult. The first section of the film is available online where the two are cuffed and blindfolded and then transported to an unknown location. At the location they do a secret handshake and finally it's time to meet the central figure of the cult, a lady who uses an oxygen tank to breathe called Maggie (played by Brit Marling). She makes an over-the-top claim and has her followers engaging in intense manipulative activities intended to ensure complete loyalty.
The couple we are following are made up of Peter who is a very analytical thinker and was hurt when his mother listened to a cult that told her that modern medicine was evil. His mother died of cancer and he's determined that this cult must not hurt people in the same way. His girlfriend Lorna has a history of drug abuse and seems a bit too vulnerable to be putting herself through this experience. Peter is currently working as a teacher in a primary school while Lorna is hoping to become a writer.
The events within the cult are always interesting and ambiguity about Maggie's claims comes from her bizarre sixth sense (possibly suggesting Derren Brown style techniques in cold reading). The progress of the film is very clever and the acting, particularly from Brit Marling (who co-wrote the film with the director), is exceptional.
This is a very simple, yet very effective film which really gets under your skin and there's a sense that things are going to get much worse and a bit of a sense of panic related to the film. I don't want to give away the central claim of the cult, but trust me when I say that it's a really interesting concept (particularly if you are keen on sci-fi).