segunda-feira, novembro 05, 2007

Sylvia (2003)

"Sylvia," the film by New Zealand director Christine Jeff about the sad and predictable suicide of American poet Sylvia Platt, is no less than a masterpiece that left me with a heavy heart.

This 2003 two-hour film tells the captivating story of Platt, who was destined to be a suicide case; even in her teens she had experienced a drug overdose. Her oversensitive and hyperemotional nature made life an unbearably torturous hell for her.

She was born into a wealthy middle-class American family. Her dictatorial mother was her complete opposite, worldly and distanced. She traveled to England to study English literature at Cambridge, where in 1956 she met English poet Ted Hughes, with whom she instantly fell in love. She had had a few shallow entanglements back in the States, but this was a real love affair, as she was thrilled by the poetry of Hughes. Her marriage to Hughes was one of total immersion. But with love came unbearable jealousy and a clash of personalities. Hughes was also in love with her but that did not exclude his having a series of extramarital affairs.

Platt is played with extraordinary sensitivity and subtle mastery by charming Gwyneth Paltrow in this hugely difficult portrayal. Platt's marriage to Hughes produced two children, which didn't prevent her from attempting suicide on several occasions. Her mental condition helped her to produce great poetry that overshadowing the acclaimed poetry of Hughes. She finally committed suicide in her sealed kitchen, suffocating herself by gas after serving breakfast to her children in bed.

Daniel Craig is no less superlative in his acting as Hughes. It was Hughes who published two volumes of Platt's balanced and convincing poetry like "Ariel" and "Breakfast letters" posthumously, after her premature death in 1963. Hughes died of cancer a few years after Platt's death, having had a tempestuous on and off love relationship with her even after they had separated.

It is most interesting that the short part of Platt's mother was played by her real mother, Blyth Danner, which gives the film the fourth dimension of reality. So many scenes give the impression that it is a near document, which I find as another plus for the film's director. It is possible that Platt's deep depression is genetic in origin, but obviously not from her mother's side.

Her family and some of her admirers have reacted negatively to the film. The criticisms were that the film was not at all about her poetry, which may be true, but the film was not intended to be a Platt poetry book, but an utterly sad and depressive portrait. The film depicts the atmosphere of her pitiful loneliness. The two scenes where she rings the door bell of her old neighbor in the middle of the night, in need of company and missing warmth, with the excuse of asking for postage stamps, is heartbreakingly symbolic.

The movie leaves one with the bitter taste of the tragic life of poet Silvia Platt. Yet it may be correct to feel that it could have been her psychosomatic or psychological state which dictated her distinguished poetry.


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