I Blame the Dutch (mpoetess) wrote,
I Blame the Dutch

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Watched White Oleander yesterday. I haven't read the novel, though I've peeked at it, and had a vague memory of the plot. I quite enjoyed watching Michelle Pfeiffer's truly poisonous (pun not really intended -- the character herself is a very scary kind of sociopath, I think, scarier because she's so clever, and so attractive) performance, and the actress who plays her daughter, the heroine, has an amazingly beautiful and emotive face. I want to sit and take screencaps of her all day.

I was most amused by the commentary, though -- sat through the entire movie a second time, to watch it. Specifically, several places where the director and producer had a different interpretation of a scene's meaning than the novel's author. I don't mean a different vision for how something should play out -- I mean, they honestly thought Astrid (the daughter) was meant to be feeling something completely different from the way the novelist had intended it.

In the climactic scene wherein she visits her mother, Ingrid, in prison after months of having cut off all contact, Astrid offers to perjure herself in order to get Ingrid released for the murder that she actually did commit -- in exchange for information. Who's my father, admit that you actually loved him, who's this woman I remember from my childhood, etc. When she finally has her mother on the ropes, shocked by this stranger (dyed black hair, leather, multiple piercings, lipstick the colour of dried blood) that her daughter has become, she asks if Ingrid loves her enough to stay in prison for the rest of her life, in order to make Astrid not have to lie for her. There's this huge pause, which Astrid thinks answers the question, and she leaves, expecting to testify.

The novelist saw that, I think, as the thing that finally broke her away from her mother -- knowing that no, Ingrid didn't love her *that* much. The thing that let her be strong. The producer saw it as Astrid being scared, for just a moment, that her mother would take her up on it, because despite all their differences and how dangerous it was, she loved her mother and she *wanted* her mother free. Here am I going WTF?? And I can hear the author going WTF?? too -- but she's trying to be *so* polite, and "Wow, yes, that's certainly one possible interpretation, and the reader definitely makes up 1/2 the story, and isn't it great how we can take these different views of the character and the story still works....yaddayaddayadda." And I can *hear* the WTF? that she's not saying, because wow, these are Hollywood producers and they made a movie of her book, and this is the commentary, and let's not remotely sound as if we disagree.

Except, er? WTF? She doesn't want her mother free. She *knows* how dangerous her mother is. Not just to her -- to *everyone*. Ingrid manages to, essentially, murder one of Astrid's foster mothers from inside prison, by manipulating an already weak and near-suicidal woman. I don't think Astrid believes her mother belongs anywhere but where she is, somewhere at least slightly cut off from the people she says are "Not the enemy, Mother. They don't hurt us. we hurt them."

Which is the other part that amused me -- the place where I disagreed with the novelist. And the producer and the director and pretty much everyone who commented on the section immediately following that 'assisted' suicide.

Astrid visits her mother, tells her she's cutting off all contact and leaving her to rot, gives her the "They're not the enemy" speech -- then returns to the children's home that had been her pre-fostering stop. Once there, she avoids the boyfriend who had been the only person she trusted, completely cutting herself off. When she's offered a placement with a truly decent foster family who look like they'll finally be safe and supportive and (unlike her previous experiences) not insane in some way, she turns them down, and chooses a flashily dressed Russian woman who sends her foster girls out to raid trash cans for clothes to sell at swop meets - and various other moneymaking opportunities.

Novelist, producer, director, actors -- all say it's about cutting herself off, not letting herself love anyone because she needs to protect herself. essentially showing a side of her that's very like her mother.

I saw her protecting everyone *else*. Especially on the heels of that "they're not the enemy" speech, I saw her as protecting her boyfriend, her potential foster parents -- anyone she might actually get close to. From her mother, and the things Ingrid would continue to do, in order to make sure she was the only person her daughter could trust or love. Astrid blames Ingrid for her foster mother's suicide -- why would she ever trust that anyone else she might come to love would be safe? And possibly she wants to protect them from the part of herself that she fears is like her mother. It's only after she realizes she's strong enough to stand up to Ingrid, to separate herself, that she feels like it's safe to reestablish contact with her boyfriend - because she's won, and Ingrid knows it, and Astrid knows she's not the same as her mother.

So, hmm? I'm amused that the filmmakers disagreed with the novelist on something I see as so vital to the story -- and I'm kind of amazed that *I* disagreed with all of them on something that's... probably not as vital, because both motivations would work to prompt the behavior we see.

Also? Pretty, pretty movie. I did mention screencaps, right? Except, no dvd ripper, not downloading one on dialup, rented dvd, so no screencaps.
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