When You Miss Someone You’ve Never Met…
I was thinking about Alan Rickman this week. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just feeling a bit nostalgic having said goodbye to my sister. I guess that’s what happens when you miss someone – you get a little watery around the edges, you know? What a bittersweet, tender time we shared this summer – my sister and me, not Alan Rickman and me…
But Mr. Rickman plays a significant role in so many of the cinematic milestones in my life. A cold-hearted villain, Hans Gruber, in Die Hard (of the Nakatomi Plaza fame as referenced by Tish in All the Way to Heaven!). A black-hearted narcissist, Sheriff of Nottingham, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. A tender-hearted hero, Colonel Brandon, in Sense and Sensibility. A broken-hearted mage, Severus Snape, in Harry Potter. A vile-hearted arch-nemesis, Judge Turpin, in Sweeney Todd. A very human-hearted husband, Harry, in Love Actually, and so many more. Even without knowing him personally, between his iconic face and unmistakable voice and superb and varied characters, he has left an indelible mark on my life and the lives of my children, who grew up with him as the ageless Professor Snape, and I can’t help feeling a little nostalgic when I think of him.
So this week, because I was feeling a bit morose and needed a good wander in the garden, I took a short break from life and watched A Little Chaos. It’s a lovely, quiet movie about a (fictional) female garden architect, Sabine de Barra (played by Kate Winslet) who is hired on to work alongside King Louis XIV’s Master Gardener, André le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), on one of the glorious gardens in Versailles, The Grotto of Thetis. An outdoor ballroom with marble flooring, amphitheater seating, and fountains that run over tiers of stonework and shells, gravity-fed by an ingenious hidden water reservoir at the top of the gardens.
The movie is directed by and stars Alan Rickman as King Louis XIV. (Yay, Marianne and Colonel Brandon are reunited on screen at last!)
Scroll down for some of my favorite scenes from A Little Chaos and why I like them!
You know, maybe one of the reasons I like it so much is that, in some obscure way, Sabine reminds me a little of Willow Goodhope from Elderberry Croft. If you haven’t yet met Willow Goodhope, pick up your free copy of Volume 1: January Breeze, February Embers, & March Whispers, the first three episodes by subscribing to my bimonthly(ish) newsletter! Click HERE or on the image below.
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I’ve really enjoyed narrating Virginia Smith’s The Goose Creek Bed & Breakfast Series over the last several months. There are five audiobooks total – three full-length and two short stories – with the first four already out and waiting for your listening enjoyment! The fifth, A Goose Christmas will release in plenty of time for the holidays.
If you like Jan Karon and her delightful Mitford Series, you’ll find yourself right at home in Goose Creek.
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WHAT I’M TAKING IN…
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In this case, what I’m watching…but I’d read it if it were a book, or listen to the audiobook!
A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, and the indominatable Alan Rickman.
It’s rated ‘R’ for some sexuality and very brief nudity – glimpses of the illicitness of the French Renaissance court. The movie was not highly acclaimed, and many called it trite and cliche, even flat. To me, however, this movie taps into my whimsical idealistic Bohemian side in many subtle ways, between the idea of a woman in a man’s world creating beautiful chaos with a garden and calling it her search for Eden, and a king who is revealed to contain within himself both entitled monarch and humble man.
A Little Chaos has the ring of an opus to me; maybe not Mr. Rickman’s Magnum Opus, but a truly important piece of art, nonetheless. From my rose-hued perspective, it seems to be something of a reflection of the man himself.
Here are a few of my favorite scenes. Although I wouldn’t call these clips spoilers, some might feel otherwise, so if you plan to watch the movie, I’m only including animated links.
The king has nipped off to the private garden of one of his royal residences, Château of Marly, in search of a moment of solitude. The unaware Sabine comes to exchange plants with the Marly gardener, and mistakes the king for the man she seeks, much to the surprise and delight of Louis.
While watching this scene, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Rickman ever felt this way – the desire to slip away and be mistaken for “the king’s gardener”. Watch his face when he speaks that line.
I love this next scene because it follows a bittersweet moment spent between women in a private chamber where they are free to talk about the difficult things, such as loss – the loss of children, lovers, age and desirability. Once they set foot outside the doors of that room, they again become objects who can – and do – lose their value in the eyes of the men who set the standards.
When handed a rose by his mistress, Madame de Montespan (who is on the verge of being passed over for a younger, prettier girl), the king smells the blossom and says, “A light, honest scent. Natural. Unforced.” He pauses, looks somewhat scathingly on her, and continues. “Some of the roses seem faded, overblown.”
Much to the surprise – and perhaps concern for her welfare – of those around her, our intrepid heroine, Madame Sabine de Barra speaks up. With eloquent courage and vulnerability borne out of a deep loss of her own, she calls King Louis out for his insensitivity. Watch this clip to learn how beautifully savage one can be when defending the beauty of womanhood.
This is the final scene of the movie – so in that way, I suppose it is a “spoiler” – except that the opening line of the movie declares that the outdoor ballroom garden does exist…
I think this scene is why I feel so strongly about A Little Chaos being Alan Rickman’s Opus. Doesn’t it seem apropos that the movie ends with Rickman’s character standing center stage, arms outstretched, relishing the beauty of life spinning and whirling around him?
Anyway, if you love gardens and gardeners, plants and those who plant, and if you’re not adverse to R-rated movies or are willing to put your hand over your eyes for a moment or two (you won’t have to cover your ears as the language in this movie is as delicate and elegant and moving as the gardens, themselves), then this gentle, aromatic, and slightly cliche (I admit) film might be just what you’re looking for. You won’t find gunfights and exploding towers in this one. Just people coming together to find beauty, hope, and life where it seemed none existed.
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“If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust.”
Alan Rickman (1946 – 2016)
That’s it from me for now.
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