Saturday, October 05, 2013

"That Hamilton Woman": a bit swashbuckling for 1941, and an eerie parallel to today's politics

That Hamilton Woman” (1941, Janus Films and Criterion Collection) is an epic historical film by Alexander Korda, set in the early 19th century about the time of Napoleon.
The “heroine”, Emma (Vivian Leigh) is sent from England to Naples by her lover Charles Greville to learn court life.  But she falls in love with Lord Hamilton (William Mobray) and marries him.

Soon war returns, and Emma falls in love Lord Horatio Nelson (Laurence Olivier).  The sequences of deployments and battles, laced with the international politics of the time, become complicated, and one needs to know some European history to be able to follow the movie – and the historical detail is common for period films made in the 40’s and 50’s.  In the final battles, Nelson is mortally wounded, and actually paralyzed first.  Emma is left alone, rather like a “Miss Scarlet” to contemplate her upper class frivolity.

There is a boardroom scene where politicians (led by Nelson) discuss the idea of a “peace” with Napoleon Bonaparte.  There is a line that one should not negotiate with dictators.  Does that sound familiar? 
There are a lot of English and Irish hymns in the soundtrack, and a mention of the Dance of Seven Veils, but no musical quote of Richard Strauss’s “Salome”.


The film might be compared to “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2004). 

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