04-07-2008, 07:24 PM
tomate de la resistance
Join Date: Apr 2005
Portrait of Jennie
(1948, Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Dir. William Dieterle)
There are a good amount of things to like about Portrait of Jennie. I liked the visuals - the matte texture to some of the landscapes is gorgeous and unusual. Also, I liked the emphasis on silhouettes - symbolic of how you may see a person, but the details are not yet visible.
Thematically, the film was interesting to me. Not the theme about how there is only one person in the world who is meant for you. There's no appeal in that idea for me. Though, to its credit, the film actually shows the sad side of that concept - what should happen if a mistake is made and you didn't meet the one you were meant for?
But no, the theme that I really resonated with was the fear of being forgotten in history. Once at a family reunion, when I was a teenager, there was a geneological chart posted and seeing that a sister of an ancestral relative had died in her late teens/early twenties and thinking of how sad that was. There's a poem I liked when I was that age called "Play Us a Tune" by Thomas Wolfe and it's about the desire to really know the past as it would really have felt:
Unwind the fabric of lost time
Out of our entrails
Repair the million little threads of actual circumstance
Until the seconds grow gray, bright and dusty
With the living light.
This film made me think of that poem, as Eben gets to know Jennie as if her life was replaying in the present.
As an orphan, Jennie is only a marginal character in the lives of those who remember her - until Eben Adams comes along and together they find a way to establish a long-lasting legacy, to be remembered.
The reason I rate this film lower is mostly due to the character of Jennie. I liked Joseph Cotten's character quite a bit and Ethel Barrymore's Miss Spinney was interesting too, but whether it was Jennifer Jones' acting, or the way the character was written, I sometimes found Jennie annoying. Her cryptic ways were not intriguing, but rather seemed put-on. Despite all that she is said to be sad, she could be a bit too saccharine or chattering for my tastes.
Overall, I'm glad I've seen it for the good things I liked and for touching on a theme that has been one I've contemplated on before, but not recently.
Last edited by traboule; 04-07-2008 at 10:15 PM.
Reason: tweaking of phrases