Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Painted Veil (movie)

I watched The Painted Veil last week and was so enthralled with it. It tells a very strange love story.

An odd socially awkward scientist becomes obsessively enchanted with a beautiful socialite in London and proposes to her. Inexplicably she accepts and they return to his station in Shanghai. Their marriage is stilted and polite, until he discovers her infidelity.

He gives her a horrible option: she can move with him to a remote cholera plagued town in the mountains, he can divorce her for adultery and disgrace her, or she can ask her lover to leave his wife and pledge to marry her (this is particularly cruel in the circumstances).

The rest of the movie is about their harrowing time in the cholera town where it seems he is on a suicide mission. It is grim and quietly sadistic. But as he becomes involved in his work dealing with the dying and trying to transform the water system, she becomes involved with a charitable convent and eventually they see new sides of each other, and, beautifully, fall in love. She develops a deep appreciation for his work, which had always bored her.

It ends tragically, and the final scene is a kind of annoying cliche, but it was pretty great. The landscape provided a sense of magic and wonder and fear as a crucially atmospheric backdrop to their personal lives.

I was so interested in the story that I immediately downloaded the Somerset Maugham novel.

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