An academic researcher discovers some important letters written by a famous Victorian poet, and begins to investigate the story behind them.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 6-JAN-2004
Media Type: DVD
I love this movie. I can watch it over and over and I've never grown tired of it. This has a great cast of actors. This is a literary piece, a love story, a mystery full of intrigue and style. You'll travel back in time to beautiful places, you'll brush close to nobility. The movie is modern at the same time as it takes you back in time in England. There is excellent acting, a variety of well developed characters. You will laugh, cry and feel your sense of contentment satisfied. A great movie.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Victorian Romance leads to Modern Connection
Rebecca Johnson | Washington State | 04/16/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed."
While doing research in the British Museum, Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart) discovers letters written by Randolph Ash who had an affair with a lesser-known poetess, Christabel LaMotte.
Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow) knows Christabel's poems by heart and Randolph seeks her out as an expert to help him figure out why a "chaste spinster" and the "married Randolph Ash" never revealed their love to the world. He has one clue, a love letter.
Christabel and Randolph's love is based on a common love of literature and intellectual discussions, poetry and passion. They are like minds that somehow connected and together they find immense happiness despite their circumstances. Although they fight their attraction to one another, they eventually create a world of turmoil and tragedy.
Gwyneth and Aaron have a subtle chemistry but it is not "quite" the mingling of spirits that occurs with Christabel (Jennifer Ehle) and Randolph (Jeremy Northam) and yet there are enough sparks to keep them interested.
"I want to see if there is an us in you and me."
Is passion worth the turmoil and upheaval? Is this the tangle most people want? While the story of the poets is only a memory, Maud and Roland are just starting their journey and are fortunately single when they meet.
Maud and Roland lurk about in divine libraries searching for clues and discover old letters and journals. They are intoxicated by the thought that they can actually solve this mystery. They must conceal their true purpose while searching for clues.
They spend time reading the letters to each other, which is the most romantic "modern" part of this movie. The Victorian "flash backs" are much more entertaining on all levels.
The Victorian romance in this movie is wonderful, but the modern romance is much more subtle. Yet, who would not want to have a man read you poetry in bed?
Adapted from A.S. Byatt's novel by the same name. The movie is not the passionate fire the name suggests. However, this movie will possess you intellectually from start to finish.
Thoughtful Romance with an element of mystery.
~The Rebecca Review"
No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 09/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Possession" is one of the most romantic movies I have ever seen, alongside Tom Tykwer's "Heaven." A double-edged tale of love, passion, and words that can entice or betray, this is one of the few masterful films that actually brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful acting, beautiful direction, and one of the most amazing love stories ever seen in a movie.Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart), a brash young American scholar, is studying an old book of the famed poet William Randolph Ash when he encounters an old love letter. After some digging, he theorizes that it was addressed to the more obscure poet Christabel LaMonte -- but both poets were either married or in a long-term relationship. If he's right, it would rock the literary world. He seeks the help of Maud Bailey, a cold feminist scholar who has a particular fondness for Christabel's work. Maud tries to bring him down to earth by explaining that Christabel was a lesbian, but Roland is undaunted.They travel to Christabel's old home and unearth a cache of letters between Ash and Christabel, hidden away by her lover. It tells of a love affair that was doomed from the start: The correspondence first inspired respect, then friendship, then a burning love. Finally, Ash (Jeremy Northam) and Christabel (Jennifer Ehle) escape to the countryside for a few weeks alone. Those few weeks will mar the rest of their lives...Like all adaptations, "Possession" strays a bit from its original work (Roland is made American rather than English, many supporting characters are omitted). But the spirit and tone of the story are close to the book. The core of the story is words. Words that are hidden and words that reveal, words that could change a person's life or perceptions -- depending on whether they are read by the one they are intended for. Even the name of a little child can change a man's life, and his perception of the woman he loves.But more than that, it's an illustration of love in its different forms: There is the passion of the soulmates, Ash and Christabel; and there is the gradual warming and closeness between Maud and Roland. As Randolph Ash says, "There are many kinds of love." Even though the modern love story is okay by movie standards, it's pale and insubstantial compared to the Victorian love story. (Maybe this is because Maud and Roland have the POSSIBILITY of a deep attachment, whereas Ash and Christabel have full-fledged, undeniable feelings). This film isn't afraid to show love in all its glory and beauty, its pain and intensity.The direction is beautiful and stately, with the shots of waterfalls and majestic old houses. And Neil LaBute is amazing at choreographing little hints of tension and attraction. He handles the shifting from one era to another expertly; one wonderful scene pans away from Maud and Roland, to rest on Christabel.Aaron Eckhart does a solid job as Roland; he's pretty charming and twinkly-eyed, but not outstanding. Gwyneth Paltrow has a little trouble making Maud sympathetic, but she manages it (sort of). It's Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle who steal the show. They radiate emotion, so much so that merely glancing at one another has significance and substance. Lena Heady and Holly Aird also give moving, if brief, performances as Blanche Glover (Christabel's ex-lover) and Ellen Ash (Ash's wife).This is a movie for lovers and true romantics, those who can appreciate the beauty of the love story. While not perfect, it's a haunting and beautiful story, one of the most moving romantic movies I've ever seen. Highly recommended."
The past will connect them. The passion will possess them.
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Possession" is one of those movies where as soon as it is over you want to go out and read the novel upon which it is based the better to be able to enjoy the full tapestry of the story. Reading A. S. Byatt's 1990 Booker Prize-winning novel would also allow you to better appreciate the adaptation by David Henry Hwang, Laura Jones and director Neil LaBute, which offers some interesting and creative approaches, both in terms of the story and how it is portrayed cinematically.The story is essentially a romantic mystery. American Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart) is working as an assistant to a literature professor in London doing research on Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam), a poet Laureate during the reign of Queen Victoria. Roland discovers some letters from Ash that suggest the poet, a paragon of devotion with regards to his wife, had a romantic relationship with Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle), a minor poet and apparent lesbian, at least according to the historical record that exists. Roland enlists Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), a English scholar who studies LaMotte, and the two begin their journey as literary detectives.Of course a romantic relationship will develop between Roland and Maud as they are caught up in revealing the past of Randolph and Christabel. However, I have to admit that I was much more interested in the detective work unlocking the secrets of the lovers from the past than the slowly developing romance between the two scholars. Actually, I was much more interested in the romance of the two lovers in the past rather than in the present. This is not only because my academic interests are extremely sympathetic with unraveling the meaning of ancient texts, but also because the two poets have more hurdles to overcome in the romance department. After all, Eckhart and Paltrow are so good looking that their physical union is no more in doubt than their intellectual coming together. This film might actually have benefited from having less better looking leds in terms of this particular story.LaBute gets points for the rather seamless way that he shifts back and forth between the past and the present as letters and locations allow us to slip back and forth between the two. I also have a real affection for films that still do the old trick of having stage hands move things around so that a total transformation is achieved on a set within a single panning shot back and forth. But what makes "Possession" so memorable is the powerful final scene and the haunting final shot, which is where this 2002 film achives its own sense of the poetic.I am hard pressed to explain why I am only giving this film four stars given how much I like it; my best guess is because the film is only 102 minutes long and because this is a literary adaptation I cannot help but think this is the abridged version. There are a few deleted scenes available on the DVD, but they do not indicate anything substantial missing from the film. I also wanted to lose myself more in the story of Randolph and Christabel, and the Victorian world in which they lived. I really liked this film, but what I really wanted was to love it."
Cinematic Foreplay in the Highest Sense
Divine Miss M | Los Angeles, CA | 08/22/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Disclaimer: I have neither read the original novel by A.S. Byatt (though now I definitely plan to) nor have I seen the French Lieutenant's Woman. By only basis for comparison is as a neutral viewer, though admittedly one with a preference for romantic comedies.Having said that, I was completely mesmerized and swept away by this movie. From the first note of the subtle yet soothingly rich score, Possession just draws you in - a love story set in two different eras with evolving standards for love. It's really a simple story, but it delves into the different and often heartbreaking facets of love. Jennifer Ehle delivers one of the main lines and themes of the movie, "No one can stand in a fire and not be consumed." We see how love can both devour and awaken a person, and how beautifully twisted it is.Though Gwyneth Paltrow headlines the movie, it really belongs to the two leading actors - Aaron Eckhart and Jeremy Northam. Aaron Eckhart, in my opinion, really gives a standout performance. His performances in Erin Brockovich and Nurse Betty were good, but he seemed to be stuck in one-dimensional roles that hardly showcased his talent. In Possession, he finally breaks out of his white-trash male persona to amazing results. He actually lets us see his face sans beard (and it is fiiine and chiseled!) and into the soul of what we ladies desire - the sensitive alpha male. Jeremy Northam once again epitomizes the quintessential Englishman of yesteryear - regal, handsome, and genteel. It's truly an irresistable combination. Jennifer Ehle is wonderful as always. She showcases why she was last year's Tony Award winner for Best Lead Actress. She provides the passion, the heart that Gwyneth Paltrow's character invariably lacks.This movie is perfect for a Friday night with your man or one of your girlfriends. The scenery alone is worth the trip - the shots of Yorkshire are really breathtaking. Who knew dreary England could be so lush and beautiful? It honestly makes you want to book a trip, a honeymoon to England. Let yourself be caught up in this movie - you'll be glad you did when the lights go on and you realized you forgot to breathe."
Kathy | United States | 08/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must disagree with the scathing reviews I have read here. I have become very jaded with movies...a long line of endless clones blending together. This movie stood out from the crowd! I was totally captivated and am throughly enchanted each time I watch it. I love the skillful way in which the producer entertwined the past with the present. It was as though the past love affair had transcended time to envelope the modern couple. They recognized the love of the past couple and came to experience it themselves. I could feel how spellbound the modern couple was in discovering the details of the past, and how it affected them as a couple falling in love. The way the new loves went to the same places and viewed the same scenery with the same awe was very well done. You could sense them moving through the same stages of their love affair, although their circumstances were different. I disagree that the modern couple was not perfectly cast. They were the perfect contrast and made the victorian couple all the more entralling. I found all 4 actors/actresses completely believable and perfect for the story. They all possessed a sensualness and passion that was quite palpable. The love scenes were very tastefully done and not at all vulgar and explicit as some are these days. The first time that I saw this movie, I found myself caught up in both romances...feeling the longing, joy, and dispair of starcrossed lovers; feeling the trepidation, yet excitement, and overwhelming pull of the new love as they discovered not only the love of the past, but their own growing love. I think this movie shows how love transcends time. It also shows that our lives and love impacts others sometimes in ways that we never know and lend assurance that though we are born and die, love perseveres. I was hooked from the first moment and wasn't bored for an instant. I am now eager to read the book that inspired this movie. I commend the writer for this marvel of a story; as well as the director and actors for their portrayal of this mesmerizing story. The scenery was breathtaking and contributed to the overall feel of sensualness and passion. In my opinion, this movie should win all sorts of awards. This movie is probably my favorite movie of all time. It left me feeling that although the victorian couple had only a short time together...they were always in love. The modern couple learned from that past love and didn't have the same obstacles...their love was enriched by the love of the past."