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Archive for December, 2009

Firelight

Firelight (1997)

“Firelight makes time stand still. When you put out the lamps and sit in the firelight’s glow there aren’t any rules any more. You can do what you want, say what you want, be what you want, and when the lamps are lit again, time starts again, and everything you said or did is forgotten. More than forgotten it never happened.”

 

A young 19th century woman sits in a chair carefully answering questions about her qualifications. An older woman sits across from her behind a desk asking about her previous experience at being a governess. It all seems ordinary until one notices the screen beside the older woman and the male voice whispering additional questions from behind it. What starts as routine soon takes a turn when one realizes exactly what kind of job the young woman is being interviewed for. The man wants a child. In the beginning that is all we or Elisabeth (Sophie Marceau) know about his motivations. He appears to be young, rich, cultured, and handsome. He never offers Elisabeth an explanation for his unorthodox proposal. She accepts because she is desperate. Her father has mounted up considerable debt and is now in prison. There is no way that she could earn the money he needs by continuing to work as a governess.

Of course, in the 19th century, there was no such thing as in vitro fertilization, so any conception of said child would have to be accomplished the old fashioned way. To accomplish this, the two of them will meet for three nights in an out of the way hotel on a desolate coast where no one will recognize him.

This is how Firelight begins. The film is quite reminiscent of Jane Eyre, only its plot twists are a tad kinkier. It has a number of surprises some predictable, but others not. The acting is well done. Sophie Marceau creates a heroine that Hitchcock would approve of. She’s austere and chilly by day and hot-blooded and passionate by firelight. There is a palpable sense of waiting, even yearning, that she imparts through her eyes even in her most sedate moments. Stephen Dillane does a good job of fleshing out Charles Godwin, the man who hires Elisabeth to bear his child.

I would not want to spoil any of the surprises that the plot has in store, so I will give nothing further away. The movie is beautifully photographed with great attention to detail. Firelight plays an important part in the film and the scenes shot in it are quite lovely. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Firelight, but upon reflection there is much to be said for its quiet charms. Anyone who enjoys period pieces, and is not squeamish about a few tasteful but revealing love scenes should enjoy this film.

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