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The film's name Archipelago, is quite rich, whilst it summons the image
of the Isles of Scilly, where the film is set, it also captures this
sense of distance between the characters in the film, who are
nonetheless part of the same family identity. Cynthia loves her brother
Edward deeply, but is unable to express this other than through snide
remarks, passive aggressive behaviour, and tantrums. Edward is at a
quarter-life crisis, limply compassionate and full of weltschmerz,
fashioned after Prince Myshkin, the "idiot" of Dostoevesky's eponymous
I also, haha, perhaps somewhat fancifully, like to think of Lyonesse in
relation to this film, a kingdom that legendarily connected the Scilly
Isles to Cornwall, and then sank into the sea. The Scilly Isles
themselves are believed in Roman times to have been one island, named
Ennor. Something happened and the connection to the mainland, and of
the whole, disintegrated. This is much like what appears to have
happened to the family in the film (it's hinted that a childhood visit
to the Isles was much more light-hearted).
The film could be regarded as not much of a progression for Joanna
Hogg. Both Archipelago and her cinema debut Unrelated (2007) concern
upper middle class families on holiday in beautiful locations, the
status of trapped outsiders, and feature the motif of an absent
character continuously at the end of a telephone. However I think
there's something genuinely different about Archipelago, the characters
are definitely more sympathetic, and the family dynamic very different
(although, such is the shock of actually seeing tangible upper middle
class characters on screen that, full of schadenfreude, many British
class warriors will make a bee-line for the rotten tomatoes).
The location shooting is somewhat of a kindness from the director to
those of us who are so used to seeing British social realist dramas
played out against bleak and unforgiving landscapes (Morvern Callar
being a notable exception). There are passages in the film where Hogg
lets the eye rest on pure landscape photography.
The only real happiness in the film occurs after a cathartic harangue
from one character produces a genuine smile from Cynthia, who sees the
healing in the foulness. This is symptomatic of a particularly British
emotional constipation that is in dire need of mend.
Despite the emotional problems of the family, there are moments of
genuine hilarity in the film that lightened my mood, the best being
what is basically a comedy of manners sketch in a posh restaurant.
On a personal level I think I will be haunted by Tom Hiddleston's
performance as Edward, too sensitive for this world, a sad and noble
man, who lacks any expression of passion, and misplaces his affection.
All the more remarkable given his quite opposite performance as a
shallow, obnoxious and cowardly youth in Unrelated.
Tags for Archipelago Full Movie
, Andrew Lawson
, Christopher Baker
, Kate Fahy
, Lydia Leonard
, Mike Pender
, Tom Hiddleston
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