Film Actresses & Global Classics
In this series I offer my reflections on actresses and their most compelling performances in (mostly) classics of global cinema.
NICOLE KIDMAN ACTRESS 2: PORTRAIT OF A LADY
Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer in Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady
Nicole Kidman, The Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion
Nicole Kidman & Viggo Mortensen, The Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion
Isabel’s problem can be simply stated: she’s afraid of the dark. The darkness inside herself. ‘We are only alive because we desire, and yet in our desiring we are obscure to ourselves’ (Adam Phillips, The Beast in the Nursery [London: Faber & Faber, 1999, p. 107]). Indeed, Isabel is afraid of what she might find if she descends into the depths of her heart. She’s afraid it might shatter her armour. And so, doggedly pursuing happiness, she remains immune to surprise—and so remains unhappy. Indeed, unable to risk spontaneity, she deprives herself of any opportunity to discover that happiness only occurs by enchantment. She entertains the fantasy of knowing what she wants, but ‘knowing what one wants is a form of despair … a form of terrorism of oneself and of others’ (Adam Phillips, Side Effects [London: Penguin Books, 2006, pp. 166/171]). As Ralph advises her: ‘Don’t ask yourself so much whether this or that is good for you. Live as you like best, and your character will take care of itself’. At the end of her journey, at the end of the film, Isabel is ready to assume ‘the unknowingness of desiring’. In other words, she is ready to give herself a chance to discover happiness—not wilfully, but by accident.
John Malkovich & Nicole Kidman, The Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion
Nicole Kidman & Martin Donovan, The Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion
Nicole Kidman and her mirror reflection: Isabel Archer is ambivalent.
By Richard Jonathan | © Mara Marietta Culture Blog, 2019 | All rights reserved