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  1. #1
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    "Remains of the Day" Questions

    I just finished watching this, and I have a few questions.

    First, I did not get the point of the "birds and the bees" storyline at all. Mr. Darlington, Mr. Stevens' employer, had a godson about to be married, and he asked Mr. Stevens not only if he would explain the "birds and the bees" to the godson, but also if he knew what the "birds and the bees" meant. And then Mr. Stevens gave a comletely unintelligible explanation. I couldn't help but wonder:

    Would a man really think that his twenty-something godson would not have at least known about sex? Would an employer, although probably holding the common expectation that his butler would exhibit his loyalty by remaining celibate for life, really think that a 50ish man might not actually know about sex? And what do you think was intended by Mr. Stevens' totally inept explanation -- that he was too embarrassed to give the godson a sex talk, or that he did in fact not know about sex?

    And a more central question, where exactly was the evidence of "repressed love" in this story? Although I understand why two people in their position would resist their feelings by behaving very formally and properly, I saw no romance at all between Miss Kent and Mr. Stevens. All I saw was a woman who was very pushy and invasive toward him (insisting on putting flowers in his office although he did not want them, badgering him mercilessly about the book he was reading when he clearly wanted to keep it private) and a man who was condescending, even cruel, to her.

    Although this movie had some very interesting parts, the storyline of repressed love and the movie more generally, was quite a disappointment. I could not believe that it won any Oscars, and was especially surprised that it was more highly rated than, for example, "Sense and Sensibility" (another period movie featuring Emma Thompson).

    By the way, I have been recently hooked on British period films. Interestingly, I found "Remains of the Day" and "Howards End" to be two of the least enjoyable, yet these were the two most highly acclaimed of those I have seen. (I wonder if the academy has an inflated opinion of anything starring both Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, as these two films did.) Others that were less acclaimed, but that I found more interesting and enjoyable than these two include "From Time to Time," "Sense and Sensibility," (I found both of these to be just wonderful) and, to a lesser degree, "Mansfield Park."
    Last edited by mikemba; 07-17-2013 at 06:58 PM.

  2. #2
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    Well, it's been 20 years since I saw the film, so I certainly can't remember enough specifics to answer your questions. But I do remember how I felt when I saw it -- that I absolutely loved it, and that I agreed 100% with all the accolades the film got at the time.

    I can't honestly remember much about Thomson's performance, but Hopkins still stands out in my mind. A complete master of subtlety -- his "repressed love" evident in only the smallest of gestures and inflections.

    To me this movie (and book) is so completely Ishiguro: the suppressed/repressed aspects of Japanese culture mirrored perfectly in the same characteristics of English society in that time period.

    I can certainly see how Austen films would be more enjoyable, more entertaining, than either Remains or Howard's End, though. They do, after all, tend to have more sympathetic characters and happier conclusions. And I love me some Austen too, both in books and on screen. I don't think there's much benefit in comparing them though -- sure, they're all "English costume dramas" but the range of subject matter and style is still wildly different.

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    I loved both Remains and Howards End (Howards End more so).

    It's been so long, but I believe that Hopkins' former boss (not Christopher Reeve) was supposed to represent the old and fading guard of the English Empire--he was too embarrassed to discuss sexual matters with his godson, so got his butler to do it. The godson (that was Hugh Grant, right?) represented the new guard, who is more aware of sexual matters but isn't above abusing those "beneath" him (his ridicule of Hopkins).

    As for Hopkins' "lesson", I think it was to show both--his embarrassment of performing the task and his lack of knowledge in the matter.

    And, boy, did I ever see chemistry between Hopkins and Thompson. Their tug of war over the novel made me breathless. But it's not like the movie made them out to be the perfect couple. There is sadness over the eventual conclusion of Hopkins' life (aww, the train!), but it seems like Thompson's character lived a decent life for herself.
    Last edited by manhn; 07-18-2013 at 12:36 AM.

  4. #4
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    I haven't watched The Remains of the Day for a while, but the moment in which it became clear to me that Stevens is in love with Miss Kent is when she's badgering him to see what book he's reading, and Stevens doesn't answer; he just looks at her. And in his eyes I saw such intensity of emotion, such a powerful feeling of love that he knew he could never act upon, that there could be no doubt.

    As you suggest, there's no romance in terms of them expressing their feelings, or anything physical. But it's one of my favourite films, chiefly because of this central theme of what could have been.
    I hear outside a million panicking birds, and know even out there comfort is done with; it has shattered even the stars, this creature at last come home to me.

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    Mikemba, if you are having a go at Brit films, try 84 Charing Cross Road. Very pleasant.

  6. #6
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    You could try Brief Encounter if you're looking for British cinematic love stories. You have to be able to see past the accents, which are very old-fashioned, and the screenplay is written with a large helping of snobbery by Noel Coward. But if you can do this, you'll perhaps be able to agree with me that it's one of the finest love stories ever to be filmed. Oh, and you might recognise the music too , which is used with immense skill to reflect and enhance the narrative.
    I hear outside a million panicking birds, and know even out there comfort is done with; it has shattered even the stars, this creature at last come home to me.

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    The Remains of the Day and Howards End deal with complex, even unlikeable characters in messy adult relationships. They show that being in love does not necessarily mean being happy or at peace.

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    I'm enjoying your responses, as well as your suggestions for other movies. By the way, it's not just romances that I am interested in -- I simply adored "From Time to Time" which was not a love story. It was a unique kind of movie and I'd highly recommend it.

    Although I agree with those of you who thought that the novel scene in "Remains" was revealed deeper feelings despite its subleties, I found that most of the time, the two were rather unpleasant to each other. They did not seem just remote, but their actions seemed to range from thoughtless to mean. I guess I saw more nastiness than repressed love. Interesting to read the thoughts of those of you who saw more love than I did.

    By the way, I didn't think Hugh Grant's character, the godson, was condescending to Mr. Stevens. I thought he was rather pleasant and nice. I also thought he showed him a great deal of respect in the scene when he sought Mr. Stevens' thoughts on whether Mr. Darlington was being duped.

    Interesting how differently we can interpret the same movie -- that's what makes these discussions so much fun for me. Thanks for your input.

    ETA: The problem I found with Howards End was not that the characters were imperfect, but rather that several of the premises seemed rather strange (why the woman who owned Howards End desired to leave her property to a woman she barely knew; the relationship of Emma Thompson's family with Mr. Bast seemed odd in several ways, etc.)
    Last edited by mikemba; 07-18-2013 at 03:46 AM.

  9. #9
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    Have you seen A Passage to India? Having read the book several times, I was a bit horrified at what a mess they'd made of it. I never understood why they gave it a (kind of) happy ending when Forster went to such pains to ensure that a happy ending couldn't be found. With Sense and Sensibility I thought the film an improvement on the novel (not JA's greatest fan ), but with A Passage to India it's the other way round. I wouldn't recommend the film to anyone, unless they were seeing it simply because it's always interesting to see how your favourite novels turn out on the silver screen.
    I hear outside a million panicking birds, and know even out there comfort is done with; it has shattered even the stars, this creature at last come home to me.

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    ETA: The problem I found with Howards End was not that the characters were imperfect, but rather that several of the premises seemed rather strange (why the woman who owned Howards End desired to leave her property to a woman she barely knew; the relationship of Emma Thompson's family with Mr. Bast seemed odd in several ways, etc.)
    I think Redgrave's character was quite wealthy so could leave Howards End to Thompson without leaving her family destitute. Redgrave *loved* Howards End and wanted to leave it to someone who could truly appreciate it--and that was not her family.

    Thompson and Bonham-Carter's characters were the type of characters we would now characterize as "limousine liberals" and Mr. Bast was a "cause" for them to champion and allow them to feel good about themselves. In their defence, both of them (one more than the other) had a good deal of affection for him.

    ETA: Thankful for this thread. I am watching the following scene on repeat. So heartbreaking! Emma and Sir Anthony need to make more films together! Joe Wright, get to it!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ucmn1sszqk
    Last edited by manhn; 07-18-2013 at 06:23 AM.

  11. #11
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    Highly recommend you read both books, Remains of the Day and Howards End. There are subtleties you are missing that are glossed over in the films. The books are themselves very enjoyable reads and not terribly long.

    A Room With A View is another excellent E.M. Forster book with accompanying acclaimed film. It's not as "heavy" a story as the other two.

    Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is a great book as well. The movie less so.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by vesperholly View Post
    Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is a great book as well. The movie less so.
    I actually thought the movie did a very good job of delivering the book on screen. Obviously some of the details are lost, that's inevitable in a 2-hour movie of a novel. But they captured the overall tone perfectly in my view, and I thought Mulligan and Garfield were excellent. And I might even go so far as to argue that there was one pivotal scene that worked even better in the film than in the book...

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