Off to the Hyland Cinema in London for stories about life.
First up was Phantom Thread, about a famous dressmaker who becomes entranced by a young waitress. And she too is mesmerized. She comes to work for him and waits for Reynolds to fall in love. But it’s a hard go. He’s obsessed with his work and she places a distant second. It was sad to see the distance between, a buffer so obvious in many couples.
Alma isn’t allowed to be herself. Breakfast for Reynolds needs to be a quiet time, and Alma’s noisy buttering of toast and dripping of orange juice into glass just won’t do. The household of family and employees jump to his every whim, and Alma needs to follow suit.
Reynolds is “obsessed with perfection” and Alma finally has had enough. She poisons him with a toxic mushroom – not enough to kill him but plenty to make him sweat and shake. It feels like Alma wounds him so she can nurse him back to health, on her own, without a roomful of design associates in the scene. Through all his insensitivities, she loves the man.
This is messy love … two human beings with flaws and spites. Not a saint to be seen, but a tenderness hiding under the gowns and dress shirts. Hey, there’s hope for all of us imperfect ones, hope for connection with the beloved.
After a suitable interlude, which I spent reflecting on life and the bliss of popcorn, along came Darkest Hour. This is the story of Winston Churchill at the height of Hitler’s power, when it looked like Great Britain was about to be invaded. Three hundred thousand British soldiers were near Dunkirk in France, with the massive German army closing in. Churchill asked his cabinet what the plan was for rescuing these men. The response? “There is no plan.” So Churchill came up with one – recruiting the pleasure boats of countless British citizens to pluck the soldiers from Dunkirk’s beaches. And it worked.
I watched the agony of the man as he struggled with how to serve his people. His colleagues pushed for peace talks with Hitler, and threatened a vote of non-confidence if he refused. But Churchill knew in his heart that the end result would be the swastika flying over Buckingham Palace.
To see the courage of the man was inspiring. He seemed alone in his resolve to fight, save for his wife and secretary. He was called “delusional” and seen to be sacrificing the lives of 4,000 soldiers at Calais. How to be yourself, and true to your beliefs, when the world was collapsing around him. Oh to have such steadfastness. When his commitment started to flag, Churchill fled his home on Downing Street, snuck into the underground, asked a passenger for directions to the station nearest to Parliament, and got onto the subway.
Churchill then asked his travelling companions what the country should do. “Fight!” What about entering into peace negotiations with Hitler? “Never!” The Prime Minister then got off at the appropriate station, marched into the government building, and hours later addressed Parliament:
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France. We shall fight on the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”
Oh my. I was stunned silent to hear his words. And to think what hung in the balance if Churchill chose to flag or fail.
Cinema as an eye opener
Twice in one day
How shall I lead my life?
Will love and courage lead my way?