ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  neil labute

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  romance

LENGTH  -  102 minutes

RELEASED  -  16 august 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  possession

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $25,000,000
possession - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from possession at

buy the dvd from possession at

a pair of literary sleuths unearth the amorous secret of two victorian poets only to find themselves falling under a passionate spell.

this film was released almost a year after it was intended to be released.


picture from possession

picture from possession

picture from possession


two out of four possible stars

Possession might sound like the title to a Jane Austen novel, and three members of its cast have starred in Austen based films, but this film is quite different from anything Austen might have written. The movie tries to combine the two worlds of 19th century England and modern London and succeeds most of the time with more substance than is usually found in a mainstream Hollywood film. And though this movie hovers more on the Independent side of the tracks, the presentation is accessible enough to entertain many types of viewers. It is not entirely a "chick flick," but it does have most of the characteristics required for an audience comprised totally of females.

The characters are extremely likeable and the dialogue is better than average. Though some of the 19th century speech seems overly melodramatic it's no worse than what one would expect from this type of film. And it seems that the filmmakers tried a somewhat different take on the period film, by mixing with the 19th century story the travels and love story of two literary historians, played by Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. Maud and Roland, as they are known in the movie, come together because of a discovery made by Roland about a writer who died a century before.

That writer, "Randolph Henry Ash," played by Jeremy Northam, is suspected by Roland to have had an affair with fellow writer, "Christabel LaMotte," played by Jennifer Ehle. Both couples in both centuries are perfectly suited for one another and were cast very well. It is amazing that Gwyneth Paltrow should have looked so at home when she played a character from two hundred years ago in Emma and so at ease in the twentieth century in this film as well. She plays a cold woman who acquaintances, and even her on-again, off-again boyfriend call a "ball buster."

Eckhart's character is much more "American," with his co-stars letting him know of this deficiency throughout much of the movie. In point of fact, it seems that a comment on the crudeness or idiocy of people from the United States is brought up in every scene. The comments become somewhat repetitive after a while and although it is a part of Eckhart's character that he be different from Gwyneth's very buttoned-up and English Maud, this aspect could have been established with fewer comments. On the other hand, Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle's characters need no sarcastic insults thrown around to improve their relationship.

They each play their characters as well or better than their modern counterparts and learning what became of them at the same time as the modern Maud and Roland do is a good way to keep the audience interested for the length of the picture. Add some spectacular cinematography and both the mind and eyes of the audience are satisfied. The photography in both centuries is incredibly scenic and services the movie well to tie both eras together. And the costume design as well, besides being accurate in the 19th century, is also well done in the present. Often the costumers for pictures that take place in the here and now do not get the recognition they deserve, but all the costuming for this film was excellent. But every aspect of the film isn't so perfect.

Though the performances in this film are quite good, it seems that they could have been better, in some respects. Not on the part of the actors, but from the efforts of the screenwriter and editor. "Roland Michell," one of the only American characters in the film, and someone the English people are very apt to make fun of because of his "Americanisms," is a vibrant personality on screen, but is lacking in character on some levels. There is the hint of his being a writer or poet in one scene, but nothing else of his character is ever revealed. It seems that the characters of this century are so concerned with those in the past that they forget to explore the present.

But this blemish far from dooms the picture. It still hums along with a lot of intelligence and it is possible that the couples in the film seem made for one another because they interact so well. Excepting the perpetual stupid American jokes, even the supporting cast of the film seems at home in their parts. Lena Headey, playing Jennifer's companion, is a strong force in the film, even though she is featured in only around three scenes. And Holly Aird, playing Jeremy Northam's wife "Ellen Ash," also only appears in a few scenes, but makes an impact nonetheless. Taken as a whole, this film presents some endearing characters, makes a few mistakes, and yet still comes out a winner. Though it is geared more toward fans of the genre, it is still an accomplishment in creative filmmaking.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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