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The Invisible Woman

by Louise Adams
Tuesday Apr 15, 2014
The Invisible Woman

Director and lead Ralph Fiennes assembled much of his "Coriolanus" team for "The Invisible Woman," the story of Charles Dickens and his mistress. The Abi Morgan screenplay based on Claire Tomalin's book opens with "a wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other."

Told in flashback by former actress Ellen "Nelly" Ternan (a reserved Felicity Jones), the narrative, delivered in waves reflective of her regular walks along a bleak seashore, recalls how the noted novelist fell in love with her. He cast Nelly, her two sisters and her mother (who observes "the rewards of our profession are rarely monetary") in an 1857 production of his play "The Frozen Deep." The writer was 45 and considered a superstar, and a "good man trying to be a good man," while Nelly was barely 18, but who "had something."

"You'll have to share him with the public," advised his separated wife Catherine (a restrained Joanna Scanlan). "You will never know which one he loves most. He doesn't know himself."

To keep up Victorian appearances, the pair kept their affair as secret as possible, often spending time in France, until his death in 1870. Her reply to his opener above is, "Until that secret is given to another to look after and then perhaps two human creatures may know each other."

"Remember to love and be loved is life itself, without which we are naught."

Blu-ray special features include commentary and conversations with Fiennes and Jones at the SAG Foundation and at the Toronto International Film Festival. The two actors agree that Nelly changed Dickens's work, and that she was likely his muse for Estella in "Great Expectations." Dickens transformed his "brand" from a devoted father of ten and a champion of social causes into "a man in anguish," devoted to "keeping this precious connection private, which was a constant negotiation for them both."

The film concludes with Nelly's closing monologue from her first Dickens play: "This is a tale of woe. This is a tale of sorrow. A love denied, a love restored to live beyond tomorrow. Lest we think silence is the place to hide a heavy heart. Remember to love and be loved is life itself, without which we are naught."

"The Invisible Woman"
Blu-ray and DVD combo pack

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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