Spring break is nearly over and JB and I spent a great deal of time in the evenings watching films (thank you, Netflix). We saw two Japanese films, I Wish and Adrift in Tokyo, the Korean film Walking on the Moon, went to the theater and saw a 3-D version of Life of Pi, and last night watched Albert Nobbs.
The quiet and desperate movie, Albert Nobbs, based on a story by the Irish writer George Moore (1852-1933), was more powerful than I expected. I thought it would be simply about a woman who played a man in order to get better work and wages in a 19th century world where women’s options were very limited. Instead I watched a complex story unfold which involved not just cross-dressing but also addressed sexual identity more from a gender role’s perspective than from biology. Though there clearly were gay issues at play, what made this movie particularly compelling was the simple and poignant human quest for love and friendship, and for a fair shake in a world which seemed at odds with valuing anything but money, upper class, self-indulgence, connections, and any exploitation needed to support these values.
This movie was directed by Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Glenn Close who plays Albert Nobbs is awesome. Her tense and repressed portrayal of the silent and invisible butler is simultaneously filled with fear, hope, and innocence. Mr. Page, another cross-dresser in the movie, is played by Janet McTeer, whose emotionally deep and comfortably macho performance is stunning. There is a most poignant scene when both Mr. Nobbs and Mr. Page dress in women’s clothing and awkwardly run along the shore of the sea–it is stunning because it is both a liberating act and an imprisoning one within the context of the culture of 19th century Dublin.
This movie will never get the box office success it deserves. It is a complex and compelling story which is resolved in a sad, creative, and unexpected way. I still am haunted by the story.