Title: Ryan’s Daughter
Director: David Lean
Writers: Robert Bolt
It’s a shame to admit that the only David Lean’s film I have watched before is A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984), his swan song. However I consider for me it may act as a better start, allows me to explore his films in an ascending path, until I reach his apogees.
So now it comes RYAN’S DAUGHTER (1970), which was both critic and box office failure for Lean and accounted for the long gap (14 years) between it and his next film. So almost 40 years have passed, now is it the right time to rehabilitate this wrongfully-accused epic film (runs around 200 minutes)?
My answer is ambiguous, as it is no doubt a well-designed film, from its settings, performances, much less its masterful cinematography. I am appreciated all the endeavors, however, an unsatisfying feeling pumped up ultimately when the end credits were rolling, but now I am unable to tell what exactly the film lacks to enter the hall of glory.
My current thought is that the script is in a state between platitude and drama, most characters are stereotyped, for example the excuse of Rosy’s adultery seems only been emphasized upon that she could not get her sexual orgasm from her husband. The chemistry between Rosy and the British Official is merely carnal (Christopher Jones’ performance is a nightmare, not only for Lean, for the viewers too). Maybe it is the truth (a lot of people would agree, the perfect sex is a thing up in the air), but in conjunction with the background (the upcoming WWI), the nuance of personal feelings is set in a neglected position. The two things clash with each other and create a nearly ridiculous farce (I am not sure if it is Lean’s intention or not).
Otherwise the performance is solid, Sir John Mills won an Oscar for his mute role (the film also won Best Cinematography too, Freddie Young did a peerless job), Sarah Miles got her only Oscar nomination so far (I must say that she looks like a dead ringer of Evangeline Lilly, from LOST if you know whom I mean, maybe plus a little silhouette of Julie Christie), her performance successfully transcends from disagreeable toward commiserative, which is a difficult job because it was her then husband Robert Bolt wrote the script and I guess he had purposely made her character so capricious as to let his wife fully broaden her acting range. Others as I mentioned before either is stereotyped or a disaster.
It is an immoral story, with Lean’s self-indulgent ambition to portray it in the shade of a revolutionary milieu. Under Lean’s brand, for certain it is worthy watching and gives me much more anticipation to his more well-knows films like DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965), THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER QUAI (1957) and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962).