Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Forgotten Characters

There are some characters who should have a movie about them. Of course, they’re already in a movie. They come in for 5 minutes, 15 minutes perhaps even an hour. But they’re not the star, they’re not the best friend, the sidekick. They fade into the spotlight, die, leave the story or are just plain old visiting. But they’re forgotten, more or less, by the majority of audiences. I want to remember these forgotten characters.

Miranda Richardson in The Hours
as Vanessa Bell

Do you remember The Hours? Of course you do. Stephen Daldry’s sophomore effort was a successful 2002 film gaining ten Oscar nominations and a win for Best Actress [Nicole Kidman]. I mentioned The Hours a few months ago as my thirtieth favourite film. Whilst thinking of film characters that are often forgotten Miranda Richardson’s Vanessa Bell came to me. Vanessa Bell is the older sister of Virginia Woolf. After several suicide attempts Virginia’s doctors have recommended a change of scenery for her from the bustling London. With her husband Leonard she has moved to Sussex.
Miranda’s performance encompasses all of 15 minutes. She decides to visit her sister one day and brings along her three children. Vanessa’s entrance is my favourite entrance in the film. Scheduled to visit at four thirty the Bell family arrives over two hours earlier. The maid is flummoxed not knowing what to do, and Leonard doesn't care that she's here at two thirty. As he said, "She's supposed to come at 4:00" Virginia comes down with her impassive face. and sees her sister standing there.

"Leonard thinks it’s the end of civilisation. People are invited at four and turn up and two thirty."

Miranda looks at her, not certain if she’s angry or amused. And then she scoffs laughingly. The tension is broken and she embraces her sister. It’s a great acting moment and so much is achieved in so little time. If you know about the history of Virginia and Vanessa you’ll know that they had a somewhat tumultuous, they could be best friends at one moment and resent each other in the next.
It’s no surprise that Miranda’s performance has become forgotten. With such a large cast it was difficult for everybody in The Hours to be recognised, but excluding the three performances of the leading ladies Miranda Richardson gave my favourite performance in the film. And after having read so much about her life, how she designed the art work for the majority of Woolf’s novels. Her love for art, &etc, she really would make a good film.

Miranda's performance is not really that important to the film overall, but she did leave an indelible mark on me. She flits around for much of her time playing with the boys, talking about holding parties and seeming like a burst of fresh air to Virginia's moroseness. But it's at the end of her scene, after that kiss, when she says "Virginia", that you see the troubled woman beneath the mask of happiness. The sad last look she gives her sister is so beautiful and so tragic, and all that in so little time. You may have forgotten Vanessa Bell, but I haven't.

Did Miranda make an impression on you?

4 comments:

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

I love this performance as well; that look right after the kiss is just horrifying and such a visceral moment in this film.

J.L said...

I absolutely adores Miranda Richardson, she always does the most with the most smallest roles, like the one in "The Hours", and performances them greatly

Wayne B. said...

Absolutely, she left an impression on me. For me, each of the three segments has a supporting actress that nails her bite-sized role: Richardson with Kidman, Toni Collette with Jullianne Moore and Allison Janney with Meryl Streep.
Richardson is my favourite of those three and that last look you talk about was seared into my memory after the first time I watched it.

Encore Entertainment said...

Everyone So glad to see that Miranda's performance has been appreciated. She actually made my top 5 for Supporting Actress that year. I was that impressed/obsessed. And even though the role was a bit silly she was so killer in that Harry Potter installment. She eneds a proper role!