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Sophocles was an ancient Greek poet and one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His plays belonged to the period after Aeschylus and earlier of Euripides. Based on the information provided by Suda, a 10th century encyclopedia, Sophocles wrote 123 plays during his lifetime, out of which only seven have survived in a complete form. These plays are Ajax, Antigone, Trachinian Women, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus. It was believed that he remained the most celebrated playwright in the dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens held during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia. Sophocles participated in thirty competitions, of which he won 24 and never went below second place in the rest. Among his plays, the two most famous tragedies, Oedipus and Antigone are generally known as the Theban plays, even though each play belonged to a part of a different tetralogy. Sophocles greatly influenced the drama. His main contribution was the addition of third actor which reduced the importance of the chorus in the presentation of the plot. A crater on the surface of Mercury has been after this ace Greek poet and playwright.
Sophocles Childhood and Life
Sophocles was the son of Sophilus, who was a rich member of the rural deme (small community) of Colonus Hippius. Sophocles was said to have been born in Attica. It is said that he was born few years before the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, which is probably around 497/6 BC. Sophocles received his first artistic achievement in 468 BC, when he won first prize in the Dionysia theatre competition over the reigning master of Athenian drama, Aeschylus. According to Greek historian Plutarch, this victory was quite unusual. Unlike the usual custom of choosing judges by lot, the archon asked Cimon and the other strategoi present to decide the victor of the contest. According to him after being defeated, Aeschylus left for Sicily. “Triptolemus” was one amongst the plays that Sophocles presented at this festival. When Sophocles was sixteen, he was chosen to lead the paean, a choral chant to a God, celebrating the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Salamis. He was one of the ten strategoi, high executive officials that commanded the armed forces and was the junior colleague of Pericles.
In the beginning of his career, Sophocles received patronage from the politician Cimon. Even when Cimon was ostracized by Pericles (Cimon's rival) in 461 BC, Sophocles received no harm. In 443/ 442 he became one of the Hellenotamiai, or treasurers of Athena, and had the role to assist managing the finances of the city during the political ascendancy of Pericles. Based on the accounts of the Vita Sophoclis, he served as a general in the Athenian campaign against Samos in 441 BC. It was believed that Sophocles received this post because of his writing of Antigone. In 420 BC, when Asclepius was introduced to Athens, he welcomed it and set up an altar for the image of deity at his house. In 413, Sophocles was elected one of the commissioners who reacted to the catastrophic destruction of the Athenian expeditionary force in Sicily during the Peloponnesian War.
Sophocles first married to Nicostrata, with whom he had a son named Iophon. In the later life, he had relationship with a woman of Sicyon. She bore him a son called Ariston. It was believed that he had three more sons, but there is not much information about them.
In the winter of 406/ 405 BC, Sophocles died at the age of ninety or ninety one. Like the other famous men from the ancient history, his death also inspired many apocryphal stories. One of the stories states that he died from the strain of trying to recite a long sentence from his play, “Antigone” without pausing to take a breath. Whereas the other story suggests that he choked to death while eating grapes at the Anthesteria festival in Athens. The third story accounts that he died due to excessive happiness over winning his final victory at the City Dionysia.
The earliest contribution of Sophocles to the drama was the introduction of the third actor which immensely reduced the role of the chorus and created better opportunities for character development and conflict between characters. Even his competitor Aeschylus, who dominated Athenian playwrights during Sophocles' early career, accepted the new idea and adopted it into his own work towards the end of his life. Aristotle gave Sophocles the credit of the introduction of skenographia, or scenery-painting. After the death of Aeschylus in 456 BC, Sophocles became the celebrated playwright in Athens. He emerged victorious in different dramatic competitions, 18 at Dionysia and 6 at Lenaea festivals. Apart from making innovations in the dramatic structure, he was also known for his deeper development of characters than the earlier playwrights. His widespread reputation helped him to get invitation from foreign rulers to attend their courts, but unlike other playwrights Aeschylus who died in Sicily, or Euripides who spent time in Macedon, he never accepted any of these invitations.
Sophocles works were influential and significant for the Greek culture. Two out of his seven plays can be estimated correctly to their exact dates, which namely are “Philoctetes” (409 BC) and “Oedipus at Colonus” (401 BC, staged after his death by his grandson). From the rest of his plays, “Electra” had striking similarities to these two plays which put forwards the fact that it was written in the later part of his literary career. Again based on the stylistic characteristics of “Oedipus the King” which came in his middle period, “Ajax”, “Antigone” and “The Trachiniae” belonged to his early days. Sophocles had also written three Theban plays namely, “Oedipus the King”, “Oedipus at Colonus” and “Antigone”. All these plays described the fate of Thebes during and after the reign of King Oedipus. These plays were sometimes even published under a single cover. Sophocles had written these plays in separate festival competitions with several years of difference between them. They cannot be called trilogy because of the presence of inconsistencies among them. Apart from these, Sophocles is supposed to have written few more Theban plays such as such as “The Progeny”, which survived in fragments. The majority of his plays depicted the undercurrent of early fatalism and the offset of Socratic logic being the keystone for the long tradition of Greek tragedy.
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May Day Eve
By Nick Joaquin
The old people had ordered that the dancing should stop at ten o’clock but it was almost midnight before the carriages came filing up the departing guests, while the girls who were staying were promptly herded upstairs to the bedrooms, the young men gathering around to wish them a good night and lamenting their ascent with mock signs and moaning, proclaiming themselves disconsolate but straightway going off to finish the punch and the brandy though they were quite drunk already and simply bursting with wild spirits, merriment, arrogance and audacity, for they were young bucks newly arrived from Europe; the ball had been in their honor; and they had waltzed and polka-ed and bragged and swaggered and flirted all night and where in no mood to sleep yet--no, caramba, not on this moist tropic eve! not on this mystic May eve! --with the night still young and so seductive that it was madness not to go out, not to go forth---and serenade the neighbors! cried one; and swim in the Pasid! cried another; and gather fireflies! cried a third—whereupon there arose a great clamor for coats and capes, for hats and canes, and they were a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage rattled away upon the cobbles while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tile roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wile sky murky with clouds, save where an evil young moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable childhood fragrances or ripe guavas to the young men trooping so uproariously down the street that the girls who were desiring upstairs in the bedrooms catered screaming to the windows, crowded giggling at the windows, but were soon sighing amorously over those young men bawling below; over those wicked young men and their handsome apparel, their proud flashing eyes, and their elegant mustaches so black and vivid in the moonlight that the girls were quite ravished with love, and began crying to one another how carefree were men but how awful to be a girl and what a horrid, horrid world it was, till old Anastasia plucked them off by the ear or the pigtail and chases them off to bed---while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobble and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his great voice booming through the night, "Guardia serno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o.
And it was May again, said the old Anastasia. It was the first day of May and witches were abroad in the night, she said--for it was a night of divination, and night of lovers, and those who cared might peer into a mirror and would there behold the face of whoever it was they were fated to marry, said the old Anastasia as she hobble about picking up the piled crinolines and folding up shawls and raking slippers in corner while the girls climbing into four great poster-beds that overwhelmed the room began shrieking with terror, scrambling over each other and imploring the old woman not to frighten them.
"Enough, enough, Anastasia! We want to sleep!"
"Go scare the boys instead, you old witch!"
"She is not a witch, she is a maga. She is a maga. She was born of Christmas Eve!"
"St. Anastasia, virgin and martyr."
"Huh? Impossible! She has conquered seven husbands! Are you a virgin, Anastasia?"
"No, but I am seven times a martyr because of you girls!"
"Let her prophesy, let her prophesy! Whom will I marry, old gypsy? Come, tell me."
"You may learn in a mirror if you are not afraid."
"I am not afraid, I will go," cried the young cousin Agueda, jumping up in bed.
"Girls, girls---we are making too much noise! My mother will hear and will come and pinch us all. Agueda, lie down! And you Anastasia, I command you to shut your mouth and go away!""Your mother told me to stay here all night, my grand lady!"
"And I will not lie down!" cried the rebellious Agueda, leaping to the floor. "Stay, old woman. Tell me what I have to do."
"Tell her! Tell her!" chimed the other girls.
The old woman dropped the clothes she had gathered and approached and fixed her eyes on the girl. "You must take a candle," she instructed, "and go into a room that is dark and that has a mirror in it and you must be alone in the room. Go up to the mirror and close your eyes and shy:
Mirror, mirror, show to me him whose woman I will be. If all goes right, just above your left shoulder will appear the face of the man you will marry." A silence. Then: "And hat if all does not go right?" asked Agueda. "Ah, then the Lord have mercy on you!" "Why." "Because you may see--the Devil!"
The girls screamed and clutched one another, shivering. "But what nonsense!" cried Agueda. "This is the year 1847. There are no devil anymore!" Nevertheless she had turned pale. "But where could I go, hugh? Yes, I know! Down to the sala. It has that big mirror and no one is there now." "No, Agueda, no! It is a mortal sin! You will see the devil!" "I do not care! I am not afraid! I will go!" "Oh, you wicked girl! Oh, you mad girl!" "If you do not come to bed, Agueda, I will call my mother." "And if you do I will tell her who came to visit you at the convent last March. Come, old woman---give me that candle. I go." "Oh girls---give me that candle, I go."
But Agueda had already slipped outside; was already tiptoeing across the hall; her feet bare and her dark hair falling down her shoulders and streaming in the wind as she fled down the stairs, the lighted candle sputtering in one hand while with the other she pulled up her white gown from her ankles. She paused breathless in the doorway to the sala and her heart failed her. She tried to imagine the room filled again with lights, laughter, whirling couples, and the jolly jerky music of the fiddlers. But, oh, it was a dark den, a weird cavern for the windows had been closed and the furniture stacked up against the walls. She crossed herself and stepped inside.
The mirror hung on the wall before her; a big antique mirror with a gold frame carved into leaves and flowers and mysterious curlicues. She saw herself approaching fearfully in it: a small while ghost that the darkness bodied forth---but not willingly, not completely, for her eyes and hair were so dark that the face approaching in the mirror seemed only a mask that floated forward; a bright mask with two holes gaping in it, blown forward by the white cloud of her gown. But when she stood before the mirror she lifted the candle level with her chin and the dead mask bloomed into her living face.
She closed her eyes and whispered the incantation. When she had finished such a terror took hold of her that she felt unable to move, unable to open her eyes and thought she would stand there forever, enchanted. But she heard a step behind her, and a smothered giggle, and instantly opened her eyes.
"And what did you see, Mama? Oh, what was it?" But Dona Agueda had forgotten the little girl on her lap: she was staring pass the curly head nestling at her breast and seeing herself in the big mirror hanging in the room. It was the same room and the same mirror out the face she now saw in it was an old face---a hard, bitter, vengeful face, framed in graying hair, and so sadly altered, so sadly different from that other face like a white mask, that fresh young face like a pure mask than she had brought before this mirror one wild May Day midnight years and years ago.... "But what was it Mama? Oh please go on! What did you see?" Dona Agueda looked down at her daughter but her face did not soften though her eyes filled with tears. "I saw the devil." she said bitterly. The child blanched. "The devil, Mama? Oh... Oh..." "Yes, my love. I opened my eyes and there in the mirror, smiling at me over my left shoulder, was the face of the devil." "Oh, my poor little Mama! And were you very frightened?" "You can imagine. And that is why good little girls do not look into mirrors except when their mothers tell them. You must stop this naughty habit, darling, of admiring yourself in every mirror you pass- or you may see something frightful some day." "But the devil, Mama---what did he look like?" "Well, let me see... he has curly hair and a scar on his cheek---" "Like the scar of Papa?" "Well, yes. But this of the devil was a scar of sin, while that of your Papa is a scar of honor. Or so he says." "Go on about the devil." "Well, he had mustaches." "Like those of Papa?" "Oh, no. Those of your Papa are dirty and graying and smell horribly of tobacco, while these of the devil were very black and elegant--oh, how elegant!" "And did he speak to you, Mama?" "Yes… Yes, he spoke to me," said Dona Agueda. And bowing her graying head; she wept.
"Charms like yours have no need for a candle, fair one," he had said, smiling at her in the mirror and stepping back to give her a low mocking bow. She had whirled around and glared at him and he had burst into laughter. "But I remember you!" he cried. "You are Agueda, whom I left a mere infant and came home to find a tremendous beauty, and I danced a waltz with you but you would not give me the polka." "Let me pass," she muttered fiercely, for he was barring the way. "But I want to dance the polka with you, fair one," he said. So they stood before the mirror; their panting breath the only sound in the dark room; the candle shining between them and flinging their shadows to the wall. And young Badoy Montiya (who had crept home very drunk to pass out quietly in bed) suddenly found himself cold sober and very much awake and ready for anything. His eyes sparkled and the scar on his face gleamed scarlet. "Let me pass!" she cried again, in a voice of fury, but he grasped her by the wrist. "No," he smiled. "Not until we have danced." "Go to the devil!" "What a temper has my serrana!" "I am not your serrana!" "Whose, then? Someone I know? Someone I have offended grievously? Because you treat me, you treat all my friends like your mortal enemies." "And why not?" she demanded, jerking her wrist away and flashing her teeth in his face. "Oh, how I detest you, you pompous young men! You go to Europe and you come back elegant lords and we poor girls are too tame to please you. We have no grace like the Parisiennes, we have no fire like the Sevillians, and we have no salt, no salt, no salt! Aie, how you weary me, how you bore me, you fastidious men!" "Come, come---how do you know about us?"
"I was not admiring myself, sir!" "You were admiring the moon perhaps?" "Oh!" she gasped, and burst into tears. The candle dropped from her hand and she covered her face and sobbed piteously. The candle had gone out and they stood in darkness, and young Badoy was conscience-stricken. "Oh, do not cry, little one!" Oh, please forgive me! Please do not cry! But what a brute I am! I was drunk, little one, I was drunk and knew not what I said." He groped and found her hand and touched it to his lips. She shuddered in her white gown. "Let me go," she moaned, and tugged feebly. "No. Say you forgive me first. Say you forgive me, Agueda." But instead she pulled his hand to her mouth and bit it - bit so sharply in the knuckles that he cried with pain and lashed cut with his other hand--lashed out and hit the air, for she was gone, she had fled, and he heard the rustling of her skirts up the stairs as he furiously sucked his bleeding fingers. Cruel thoughts raced through his head: he would go and tell his mother and make her turn the savage girl out of the house--or he would go himself to the girl’s room and drag her out of bed and slap, slap, slap her silly face! But at the same time he was thinking that they were all going to Antipolo in the morning and was already planning how he would maneuver himself into the same boat with her. Oh, he would have his revenge, he would make her pay, that little harlot! She should suffer for this, he thought greedily, licking his bleeding knuckles. But---Judas! He remembered her bare shoulders: gold in her candlelight and delicately furred. He saw the mobile insolence of her neck, and her taut breasts steady in the fluid gown. Son of a Turk, but she was quite enchanting! How could she think she had no fire or grace? And no salt? An arroba she had of it!
"... No lack of salt in the chrism At the moment of thy baptism!" He sang aloud in the dark room and suddenly realized that he had fallen madly in love with her. He ached intensely to see her again---at once! ---to touch her hands and her hair; to hear her harsh voice. He ran to the window and flung open the casements and the beauty of the night struck him back like a blow. It was May, it was summer, and he was young---young! ---and deliriously in love. Such a happiness welled up within him that the tears spurted from his eyes. But he did not forgive her--no! He would still make her pay, he would still have his revenge, he thought viciously, and kissed his wounded fingers. But what a night it had been! "I will never forge this night! he thought aloud in an awed voice, standing by the window in the dark room, the tears in his eyes and the wind in his hair and his bleeding knuckles pressed to his mouth.
But, alas, the heart forgets; the heart is distracted; and May time passes; summer lends; the storms break over the rot-tipe orchards and the heart grows old; while the hours, the days, the months, and the years pile up and pile up, till the mind becomes too crowded, too confused: dust gathers in it; cobwebs multiply; the walls darken and fall into ruin and decay; the memory perished...and there came a time when Don Badoy Montiya walked home through a May Day midnight without remembering, without even caring to remember; being merely concerned in feeling his way across the street with his cane; his eyes having grown quite dim and his legs uncertain--for he was old; he was over sixty; he was a very stopped and shivered old man with white hair and mustaches coming home from a secret meeting of conspirators; his mind still resounding with the speeches and his patriot heart still exultant as he picked his way up the steps to the front door and inside into the slumbering darkness of the house; wholly unconscious of the May night, till on his way down the hall, chancing to glance into the sala, he shuddered, he stopped, his blood ran cold-- for he had seen a face in the mirror there---a ghostly candlelight face with the eyes closed and the lips moving, a face that he suddenly felt he had been there before though it was a full minutes before the lost memory came flowing, came tiding back, so overflooding the actual moment and so swiftly washing away the piled hours and days and months and years that he was left suddenly young again; he was a gay young buck again, lately came from Europe; he had been dancing all night; he was very drunk; he s stepped in the doorway; he saw a face in the dark; he called out...and the lad standing before the mirror (for it was a lad in a night go jumped with fright and almost dropped his candle, but looking around and seeing the old man, laughed out with relief and came running.
"Oh Grandpa, how you frightened me. Don Badoy had turned very pale. "So it was you, you young bandit! And what is all this, hey? What are you doing down here at this hour?" "Nothing, Grandpa. I was only... I am only ..." "Yes, you are the great Señor only and how delighted I am to make your acquaintance, Señor Only! But if I break this cane on your head you maga wish you were someone else, Sir!" "It was just foolishness, Grandpa. They told me I would see my wife."
"Wife? What wife?" "Mine. The boys at school said I would see her if I looked in a mirror tonight and said: Mirror, mirror show to me her whose lover I will be.
Don Badoy cackled ruefully. He took the boy by the hair, pulled him along into the room, sat down on a chair, and drew the boy between his knees. "Now, put your cane down the floor, son, and let us talk this over. So you want your wife already, hey? You want to see her in advance, hey? But so you know that these are wicked games and that wicked boys who play them are in danger of seeing horrors?"
"Well, the boys did warn me I might see a witch instead."
"Exactly! A witch so horrible you may die of fright. And she will be witch you, she will torture you, she will eat
your heart and drink your blood!"
"Oh, come now Grandpa. This is 1890. There are no witches anymore."
"Oh-ho, my young Voltaire! And what if I tell you that I myself have seen a witch.
"Right in this room land right in that mirror," said the old man, and his playful voice had turned savage.
"Not so long ago. When I was a bit older than you. Oh, I was a vain fellow and though I was feeling very sick that night and merely wanted to lie down somewhere and die I could not pass that doorway of course without stopping to see in the mirror what I looked like when dying. But when I poked my head in what should I see in the mirror but...but..."
"And then she bewitch you, Grandpa!"
"She bewitched me and she tortured me. l She ate my heart and drank my blood." said the old man bitterly.
"Oh, my poor little Grandpa! Why have you never told me! And she very horrible?
"Horrible? God, no--- she was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen! Her eyes were somewhat like yours but her hair was like black waters and her golden shoulders were bare. My God, she was enchanting! But I should have known---I should have known even then---the dark and fatal creature she was!"
A silence. Then: "What a horrid mirror this is, Grandpa," whispered the boy.
"What makes you slay that, hey?"
"Well, you saw this witch in it. And Mama once told me that Grandma once told her that Grandma once saw the devil in this mirror. Was it of the scare that Grandma died?"
Don Badoy started. For a moment he had forgotten that she was dead, that she had perished---the poor Agueda; that they were at peace at last, the two of them, her tired body at rest; her broken body set free at last from the brutal pranks of the earth---from the trap of a May night; from the snare of summer; from the terrible silver nets of the moon. She had been a mere heap of white hair and bones in the end: a whimpering withered consumptive, lashing out with her cruel tongue; her eye like live coals; her face like ashes... Now, nothing--- nothing save a name on a stone; save a stone in a graveyard---nothing! was left of the young girl who had flamed so vividly in a mirror one wild May Day midnight, long, long ago.
And remembering how she had sobbed so piteously; remembering how she had bitten his hand and fled and how he had sung aloud in the dark room and surprised his heart in the instant of falling in love: such a grief tore up his throat and eyes that he felt ashamed before the boy; pushed the boy away; stood up and looked out----looked out upon the medieval shadows of the foul street where a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles, while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tiled roofs looming like sinister chessboards against a wild sky murky with clouds, save where an evil old moon prowled about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable the window; the bowed old man sobbing so bitterly at the window; the tears streaming down his cheeks and the wind in his hair and one hand pressed to his mouth---while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobbles, and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his voice booming through the night:
"Guardia sereno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o!"
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It is the time of the Crusades during the Middle Ages - the world shaping 200-year collision between Europe and the East. A blacksmith named Balian has lost his family and nearly his faith. The religious wars raging in the far-off Holy Land seem remote to him, yet he is pulled into that immense drama. Amid the pageantry and intrigues of medieval Jerusalem he falls in love, grows into a leader, and ultimately uses all his courage and skill to defend the city against staggering odds. Destiny comes seeking Balian in the form of a great knight, Godfrey of Ibelin, a Crusader briefly home to France from fighting in the East. Revealing himself as Balian's father, Godfrey shows him the true meaning of knighthood and takes him on a journey across continents to the fabled Holy City. In Jerusalem at that moment--between the Second and Third Crusades--a fragile peace prevails, through the efforts of its enlightened Christian king, Baldwin IV, aided by his advisor Tiberias, and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin. But Baldwin's days are numbered, and strains of fanaticism, greed, and jealousy among the Crusaders threaten to shatter the truce. King Baldwin's vision of peace--a kingdom of heaven--is shared by a handful of knights, including Godfrey of Ibelin, who swear to uphold it with their lives and honor. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son, he also passes on that sacred oath: to protect the helpless, safeguard the peace, and work toward harmony between religions and cultures, so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. Balian takes the sword and steps into history.
- Written by Sujit R. Varma
In 1184, French village blacksmith Balian just lost his wife trough suicide grief-stricken by their child's death; the crusader lord Godfrey, baron of Ibelin, reveals himself as Balian's father and offers him a crusader life, which the youngster spontaneously rejects but after the local priest taunts him till his sword strikes fatally accepts, fleeing the French bishop's bloody justice and seeking divine forgiveness as promised to crusaders in Jerusalem. On the way, Balian is instructed the skills of war and chivalric honor code and dubbed a knight in Messina by his father, who was fatally wounded fighting off the bishop's men. After shipwreck on the Levantine coast, Balian soon proves himself a superior knight as fighter and noble idealist in the loyal service of leper king Baldwin, whose pragmatic right hand, the count of Tiberias, fails to convince Balian the ruthless knight Reynald de Chatillon and his traitorous master, candidate-heir to the throne Guy de Lusignan, must be stopped by all means before they plunge the crusader kingdom in a fatal war against the noble, militarily far superior Saracen king Saladin. When Tiberias is proven right, he leaves for Cyprus, brave Balian stays to defend besieged Jerusalem against impossible odds.
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A Walk to Remember Movie Poster
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Mandy Moore as Jamie Sullivan
Shane West as Landon Carter
Daryl Hannah as Cynthia Carter
Peter Coyote as Rev. Sullivan
Lauren German as Belinda
Clayne Crawford as Dean
Based on the novel by
Drama, Family, Romance
Rated PG For Thematic Elements Language and Some Sensual Material
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| Roger Ebert
January 25, 2002 |
"A Walk to Remember" is a love story so sweet, sincere and positive that it sneaks past the defenses built up in this age of irony. It tells the story of a romance between two 18-year-olds that is summarized when the boy tells the girl's doubtful father: "Jamie has faith in me. She makes me want to be different. Better." After all of the vulgar crudities of the typical modern teenage movie, here is one that looks closely, pays attention, sees that not all teenagers are as cretinous as Hollywood portrays them.
The singer Mandy Moore, a natural beauty in both face and manner, stars as Jamie Sullivan, an outsider at school who is laughed at because she stands apart, has values, and always wears the same ratty blue sweater. Her father (Peter Coyote) is a local minister. Shane West plays Landon Carter, a senior boy who hangs with the popular crowd but is shaken when a stupid dare goes wrong and one of his friends is paralyzed in a diving accident. He dates a popular girl and joins in the laughter against Jamie. Then, as punishment for the prank, he is ordered by the principal to join the drama club: "You need to meet some new people." Jamie's in the club. He begins to notice her in a new way. He asks her to help him rehearse for a role in a play. She treats him with level honesty. She isn't one of those losers who skulks around feeling put upon; her self-esteem stands apart from the opinion of her peers. She's a smart, nice girl, a reminder that one of the pleasures of the movies is to meet good people.
The plot has revelations that I will not reveal. Enough to focus on the way Jamie's serene example makes Landon into a nicer person--encourages him to become more sincere and serious, to win her where she approaches him while he's with his old friends and says, "See you tonight," and he says, "In your dreams." When he turns up at her house, she is hurt and angry, and his excuses sound lame even to him.
The movie walks a fine line with the Peter Coyote character, whose church Landon attends. Movies have a way of stereotyping reactionary Bible-thumpers who are hostile to teen romance. There is a little of that here; Jamie is forbidden to date, for example, although there's more behind his decision than knee-jerk strictness. But when Landon goes to the Rev. Sullivan and asks him to have faith in him, the minister listens with an open mind.
Yes, the movie is corny at times. But corniness is all right at times. I forgave the movie its broad emotion because it earned it. It lays things on a little thick at the end, but by then it had paid its way. Director Adam Shankman and his writer, Karen Janszen, working from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, have an unforced trust in the material that redeems, even justifies the broad strokes. They go wrong only three times: (1) The subplot involving the paralyzed boy should have either been dealt with, or dropped; (2) It's tiresome to make the black teenager use "brother" in every sentence, as if he is not their peer but was ported in from another world; (3) As Kuleshov proved more than 80 years ago in a famous experiment, when an audience sees an impassive closeup, it supplies the necessary emotion from the context. It can be fatal for an actor to try to "act" in a closeup, and Landon's little smile at the end is a distraction at a crucial moment.
Those are small flaws in a touching movie. The performances by Moore and West are so quietly convincing we're reminded that many teenagers in movies seem to think like 30-year-old standup comics. That Jamie and Landon base their romance on values and respect will blindside some viewers of the film, especially since the first five or 10 minutes seem to be headed down a familiar teenage movie trail. "A Walk to Remember" is a small treasure.
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