SHADOWLANDS

Directed by Richard Attenborough. UK. 1993.


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The Golden Age of British cinema is over. Itís true. If you can keep your eyes open for 126 minutes youíll see that Iím right. Lord Attenborough, you see, must have known it when he cast Anthony Hopkins, (at the height of his powers), alongside Debra Winger. She must have known it too. Like her character - Joy Gresham, a sassy, bright, American divorcee - she seems at home in heady company. Hopkins plays C.S. Lewis, an Oxford Don so entrenched in dreaming spires it takes the wondrous Greshamís love and death to give him life. The economy and wisdom of William Nicholsonís script never lets the towering performances overshadow it; the performances are never self indulgent enough to let the words seem loud. Indeed, if we can hear anything, itís the beating of our own hearts. The tiny brush strokes are as poignant (and significant) as the large. Can this be cinema? Clearly not: cinema is a shoot-em-up, take-em-down medium; itís middlebrow, made for us dunces by Clever People: the Loveys stoop for Plonkers. 

Debra Winger and Anthony Hopkins in Shadowlands. All Rights Reserved.If there is a complaint (and there isnít), itís that there doesnít seem a need for Gresham to gatecrash Lewisí ivory tower; he leads a simple life untrammelled by the slings and arrows that beset the likes of you and me. But Lewis loves one thing more than anything: the truth. Attenborough and Nicholson knew that (and Hopkins, it seems when watching him, has always known that), and the majesty of this masterpiece is that truth is mortal, and truth is sweat; truth is, indeed, a woman. And should we dare to truly love, perhaps weíll feel the heat of it - all that reality. 
 

At least we would, if the Golden Age of British cinema wasnít over, and this film had been released in 1952, when it was set, not 1993, like it says on the box. Phew. . .relief. If this had been a modern film weíd be forced to think that we Brits did this kind of thing better than anyone. And we canít have that. 
 

Nick Green
 
 
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