There’s a saying that truth is often stranger than fiction. That certainly proved to be the case for the family of actress Ruth Wilson. Wilson plays the role of her own grandmother Alison Wilson in this short series. Mrs. Wilson is based on Alison’s marriage to the enigmatic British spy and author Alexander Wilson.
After twenty years of wedded bliss and two children, Alec unexpectedly dies in Alison’s arms. Alison is devastated by his death. She goes through the motions of comforting her sons and planning Alec’s funeral until she receives another unexpected shock. An older woman arrives on her doorstep to collect Alec’s belongings. She claims to be Mrs. Wilson.
Seeking answers, Alison tracks down Alec’s intelligence handler Coleman. Alison is adamant that Alec was divorced from the first Mrs. Wilson before marrying her. Coleman is not so sure. This leads Alison to question every thing she ever knew about their life together. Not only does she explore her own memories of her past with Alec, but she also begins her own investigation into Alec’s private and professional life. She is stymied at every turn by an agency who wants to keep Alec’s work secret. Nor does she receive any help by those who knew Alec personally. As she slowly uncovers her husband’s secrets, she discovers a man she barely knew.
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Vanity Fair is arguably the crowning achievement of British author William Makepeace Thackeray. In it, he created perhaps the greatest anti-heroine in English literature, Becky Sharp. The name of the novel is an allusion to a place found in Pilgrim’s Progress where travelers’ find themselves lured in by a fascination of material things. It can also be read as a satire on English society of that time. Thackeray’s masterpiece has been adapted for both the big and small screen many times. But despite having seen two film versions, it is iTV’s recent adaptation which finally introduced me to the brilliance of Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair follows the journey of two young ladies from their friendship at school, through a decade of their lives.
Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley cannot be more different. Becky is orphaned and without fortune, but uses her education, charm and beauty to make the most of her paltry connections. Above all she desires financial security and the influence of social position. She has no conscience about how she achieves these things. In her ruthless betterment of self, Becky manipulates various members of the Crawley family, Amelia’s brother Jos and eventually the Marquis de Steyne. Though she eventually obtains her objectives, it comes at a higher price than she expects.
In contrast, Amelia is sweet-natured but passive and completely naïve to the true natures of those she loves best. Unlike Becky, her only real wish is to settle down with her fiancé George Osborn to a life of happy domesticity. William Dobbin an army captain and friend to George secretly assists her in gaining her heart’s desire. Like Becky, Amelia eventually realizes her dream, but it also comes at a high cost.
As these women navigate ambition, romance, war and disappointment they must eventually face the truth and consequences of their choices. They must also decide if they are willing to change.
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Six years ago, to the outrage of her family and the delight of London gossips, Lady Helen Dehaven refused to marry the man to whom she was betrothed. Even more shockingly, her refusal came on the heels of her scandalous behavior: she and her betrothed were caught in a most compromising position. Leaving her reputation in tatters and her motivations a mystery, Helen withdrew to a simple life in a little village among friends, where her secrets remained hers alone.
For reasons of his own, Stephen Hampton, Lord Summerdale, is determined to learn the truth behind the tangled tale of Helen’s ruin. There is nothing he abhors so much as scandal – nothing he prizes so well as discretion – and so he is shocked to find, when he tracks Helen down, that he cannot help but admire her. Against all expectations, he finds himself forgiving her scandalous history in favor of only being near her.
But the bitter past will not relinquish Helen’s heart so easily. How can she trust a man so steeped in the culture of high society, who conceals so much? And how can he, so devoted to the appearance of propriety, ever love a fallen lady? Continue reading “Book Review – A Fallen Lady”
It is a time of great internal and political conflict in Korea. The nation is slowly losing it’s autonomy to it’s more power neighbor, Japan. The disintegration of Korea’s freedom and identity is hastened by the modernization forced upon it by American and Japanese influence. Compounding the problem is that many of Korea’s nobles are actively working against their homeland for their own personal benefit.
The events of this time are seen through the eyes of five young adults whose own personal backgrounds influence the way they react to Korea’s slow death. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday – Mr. Sunshine (2018) KDrama”
In the last several decades of the fifteenth century, a Byzantine princess is sent to Moscow to marry its’ Grand Prince Ivan III. Rome hopes that with her influence, the people of Russia will turn from their Orthodox faith to Catholicism. Instead the Princess Zoe changes her name to Sophia, and adopts the Russian language, faith and culture as her own.
As the wife of the man who history will name Ivan the Great, she is not entirely trusted by her adopted homeland. Those in power fear her foreign origins and influence over her husband. She becomes a point of conflict in the Russian court and the focus of court distrust and intrigues.
While Ivan and Sophia deal with these internal conflicts, there are also external ones which demand Ivan’s attention. Among these are issues of diplomacy and war among rival nations. The most dangerous of these is war against the Golden Horde led by the Grand Khan. Closer to home is the conflict with the Russian Republic of Novrogod who resist Ivan’s attempts to unify the various Russian principalities under the throne of Moscow. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Sophia (2016) Russian Television Series”
She was referred to as “Soviet Sophia Loren” and “the most beautiful Kremlin weapon.” But who was the Red Queen? Was she the queen of the catwalk or a KGB agent seducing foreign diplomats? How did she manage to succeed and what was the price she had to pay? The life of Regina Zbarskaya, the most famous USSR, is full of mystery and drama.
In 1950’s Communist Russia, a family tragedy leaves Zoya Kolesnikova a stigmatized orphan. Leaving her home town, she heads to Moscow to escape her past. While there she adopts the name Regina. With the help of a benefactress,she reinvents herself through education and determination.
Initially she pursues her mother’s dream of becoming an accountant, but a chance encounter leads her into the world of fashion. Regina works hard not only to become a clothes model but also to overcome past mistakes. Eventually, she realizes success not only in Russia but also world wide. But past traumas still haunt her and a life of fame has its’ price. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -The Red Queen (2015)”
Holodomor is a word which translated literally means death by starvation. The word comes from the Ukrainian words holod, ‘hunger’, and mor, ‘plague’ possibly from the expression moryty holodom, ‘to inflict death by hunger’ (Source: Wikipedia). The Ukrainians use it more commonly to refer to a literal event which occurred in the early 1930’s when Stalin’s government created a famine. The intentional policies of his government led to the death of millions of Ukrainians from starvation and subsequent disease. Although the final tally of deaths varies, it ranks with the Holocaust as one of the worst tragedies of this century. Bitter Harvest is the first Western feature film to portray this historical event onscreen.
Yuri and Natalka are childhood sweethearts who have grown up together in a small Ukranian village. They have come of age in a time where the ruling Russian monarchy has been ousted and Communism has become a popular governing concept. It is a chaotic time, particularly as the Ukraine has taken advantage of Russia’s political instability to assert their own claim to national identity and independence…and failed.
Yuri and Natalka lives remain relatively untouched by the turmoil. Their biggest concerns are more personal. Yuri (Max Irons) is an artist who struggles to live up to the reputation of his famous warrior grandfather. Natalka (Samantha Barks) worries that her illegitimate birth will taint Yuri’s reputation if they marry. But the outside world soon crashes in on their simple life. Orders from Moscow have sent Russian soldiers to the Ukrainian heartland to confiscate the wealth and property of this area. These soldiers are cruel and violent as they force collectivization on formerly free landowners and peasants. But Stalin needs the grain from this Eastern breadbasket to fuel his army.
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Sissi is a German film about the real life historical figure of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The real Elisabeth (nicknamed Sisi) had royal Bavarian blood and was well connected through her many royal relations. She was fifteen when her first cousin, Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian emperor, fell in love with her and coerced her into marriage. Though she was renowned for her beauty, once married she lived a rather unhappy life. Sisi’s rather free upbringing made it difficult for her to adjust to the rules and strictures of court life. This was made even more difficult by her overbearing and controlling mother-in-law. Though her husband loved her, he stayed busy being emperor and she didn’t reciprocate the depth of his feelings. Although she is the longest reigning empress of Austria, she spent most of those years away from court and uninvolved in its’ politics.
Sissi is the first of a trilogy of German films which portray the life of this famous woman. As with most historical films, it is fairly romanticized. Still it manages to give a somewhat true accounting of Sisi’s early life.
The picture covers the brief period of Elisabeth’s life prior to catching the eye of the Emperor until the day of their wedding. It introduces other historical characters such has her sister Helene, who had been the original intended bride of the Emperor. Other characters which appear are Sisi’s parents and siblings, and her aunts and uncles who were the ruling monarchs of other German principalities. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Sissi (1955)”
History is rich with people whose lives contain enough drama and significant events to still fascinate today. In recent years, TV & Film focused particularly on female rulers who acted as heads of state in times where women were considered inferior and subservient to men. These women proved the lie of such notions by being crafty, intelligent and strong leaders. Catherine the Great of Russia is one such woman who stands out in history. Several films and television series featured her rise to power and her subsequent reign during a period when Russia was a powerful player in international affairs. However, Ekaterina is one of the few if not only onscreen productions which is not only filmed in Russia but produced exclusively by Russians for Russian television.
Catherine is a German-born princess whose parents have little financial means but important connections. She is chosen as a potential bride for the Grand Duke of Russia as a pawn in a game of international intrigue. She is naïve enough to believe that she and Peter can develop a marriage based on love and respect. But Peter, whose life has been controlled by his aunt, the Empress Elizabeth, refuses her overtures as a means of rebellion against the arranged marriage.
From her arrival at the Russian court of St. Petersburg, Catherine’s life is manipulated and controlled by those with greater power and influence. She learns to keep her mouth shut and her ears open as she maneuvers through the treacherous waters of the royal court. Over the course of fifteen years, and through her many losses, Ekaterina has her innocence and illusion shattered while she learns the art of diplomacy and the cost of being the wife to the heir apparent of the Russian throne.
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Young Catherine is an American/British/Canadian mini-series which portrays the early years of Russia’s Catherine the Great.
In 1744 Sophia Fredericke, a princess of a small German principality, is invited to the court of St. Petersburg as the potential bride for the next Russian heir. Sophia’s upbringing has been sheltered. She has a close relationship with her father, with whom she shares a devotion to their Lutheran faith. Her relationship with her mother is less warm. But it is with her mother that she travels to Russia. Her mother is well prepared for the political and social intrigues of the Russian court, but Sophia is less so.
She arrives as a naive innocent, eager to believe in a love match between herself and Peter, the Grand Duke and future emperor. Thanks to some advice from the handsome Grigory Orlov, Sophia is smart enough to ingratiate herself with the Empress Elizabeth, Russia’s ruling sovereign. Sophia soon begins to experience the shattering of her illusions. It slowly becomes clear to her that her marriage and her role within the Russian monarchy is not made of fairy tales. Sophia must learn how to maneuver in an environment where she is viewed as at best, a pawn and at worst, a threat to others’ ambitions. She must decide if she is willing and how much she will sacrifice for the sake of a crown.
To read my review of this series, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.