Monday, 1 December 2014

"Mr Turner" - the film ...



I went to the see film on Joseph Mallord William Turner … being aware from the reviews that the film had divided the journalists as well as the experts …

St John's Church, Margate - painted
by Turner when he was 11 or 12 (1786)

… and one commenter, Helen, on my previous post, who is an artist, had heard from friends of hers that the film was ‘odd’ … so I was forewarned … and when I attended the cinema audience confirmed this … there were mutterings!


I still suggest you see the film … but as Helen mentioned apparently my post brought aspects of Turner’s life to her attention, which she hadn’t realised in the film. 


Margate clock tower and sands
I have to agree with her … and I realised there were more points I could draw your attention to that might be helpful, if and when you get to see the film.


First I’d suggest you read both posts … the background, then the insights you read here and check out any of the links I’ve given below.


The film covers the last 25 years of Turner’s life … so he’s established, but has an irascible camaraderie with the academicians of his day – he divides them too …


Our first encounter is with a former prostitute and Turner’s two daughters … all of whom he disdains/disowns too, and has no interest in whatsoever …


Haydon's portrait of
William Wordsworth (1842)
He has few friends, he is utterly devastated when his father dies, but he is faithfully attended by his housekeeper, Hannah Danby, for 40 years … he exploits her sexually … and you see her visibly ageing, especially as she has psoriasis.  (Dorothy Atkinson, who plays Danby, really ages on screen … her performance riveted me).




We come across another academician, who is his own worst enemy – Benjamin Haydon, the landscape painter, more can be found in the link, as the story line features in the film.


Mary Somerville




I’m glad I mentioned Mary Somerville in my previous post – she does feature in the film …





Turner’s visits to Margate are shown … and it is here he develops the only loving relationship he appears to have had throughout his life: with Mrs Booth, his landlady in Margate.  She buys a house in Chelsea, and Turner mostly moves in too …  distressing enormously Hannah his faithful housekeeper at the other house.

Dido Elizabeth Belle - the character
which inspired the film "Belle"


We also see Turner ‘behaving badly’ … he drank to cover his shakes from Parkinson’s, his sight affected his behaviour socially, as well as his palette …






The Slave Ship: Turner's representation of
the mass murder of slaves, inspired by the Zong killings
Turner’s concern about the Slave Trade fleetingly occurs … portrayed in his representation of the Zong Massacre … slaves were thrown overboard – so the owners could claim from the insurers.  Some of this was reflected in the film “Belle” ... another worthwhile film.




Mike Leigh, the director, portrays his films in an instantly recognisable reality with a raw, utterly compromising intensity … films you may recognise are “Secrets and Lies” (1996), “Topsy-Turvy” (1999) and “Vera Drake” (2004).



Leigh felt there was scope for a film examining the tension between this very mortal, flawed individual and the epic work, the spiritual way he had of distilling the world.


The Archbishop's Palace, Lambeth:
Turner's, aged 15, first work accepted
by the Royal Academy in 1790
We do see Turner’s range across life … he travels, paints, learns about the new developments, stays with country aristocracy, visits brothels, spies on fellow artists and his customers when they visit his workshop, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and royalty …


The film was acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival ... but I am glad I wrote both these blog posts – as a non-art historian with little knowledge … I’ve learnt here and may well go and see the film again with a greater understanding.


Turner must have been pretty non-communicative a great deal of the time … Spall portrays him as mono-syllabic, shambolic, hungry for an understanding of the world around him … a man not revealing his thoughts … yet he was very competitive and thus innovative for a man of his times.

The film poster


I hope you get to see the film – it is really worth it … we also get to see what life might well have been like only 170 years ago … enjoy … both films are well worth seeing!





Helen Tilston, Painter: - a blogger and commenter on my previous post on Turner

Mr Turner (film) – Wikipedia’s entry

Benjamin Haydon, the landscape artist



Belle (2013 film) – should you wish to look, and another very good film about life 210 years ago …

The Daily Mail article on Belle: and how a portrait with amystery lady inspired Belle – the film


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

50 comments:

Gattina said...

That's a film I also want to see absolutely ! I never listen to what people say I prefer to make my own opinion. Unfortunately the film is not yet out over here because they have to subtitle it or even translate it into a French version and that takes time. Maybe when I am back from Egypt it will be in the movies here too !

bazza said...

Hi Hilary. Turner was, without doubt, the finest painter this country has ever produced and Timothy Spall was born to play him!
It is not often recognised what a key influence he was on the early Impressionists. Romanticism was of course a reaction to Neoclassicism just as each movement in art is a reaction to it's predecessor but his revolutionary style influenced many others to work in a new way.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I love Turner and despite the numerous comments I would love to see this film. I wonder if it will come to our little cinema. They do show several English films so here is hoping.

Thanks for your post which gives me an idea what to expect. Have a good week Diane

Out on the prairie said...

It still sounds interesting, we all have our differences. His obviously helped paint his visions.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Someone else I follow talked about the movie and recommended it.
Drinking when you have Parkinson's seems like a really bad idea.

Janie Junebug said...

Poor Hannah. Psoriasis is miserable. I love Secrets and Lies and Vera Drake. I want to see this movie, but it probably won't be until it's on DVD. I don't get out much.

Love,
Janie

beste barki said...

After all that we learn about Turner from your post, I'm thinking, such individuals would not have been able to accomplish all they did had their world have information and social media services at their finger tips like we do.

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm sorry the film was so odd. I want to re-read both your posts before I see it. I have heard of the movie Belle and I want to see it.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'd like to see the film, too. There is something mesmerizing about a character so complicated and complex that he almost seems fictional. Good breakdown of the intricate nature of his personality. When one doesn't love one's own children, I'm fascinated to know why. That and his long time abuse of Hannah.

Nick Wilford said...

Interesting write-up - sounds like it's still worth a watch. Turner seems like a fascinating character if not particularly likeable! Like many geniuses I think he struggled with many aspects of life. Amazing that he produced such great work from so young an age.

Jo said...

Had a friend in NC who drank and had Parkinson's. Didn't seem to affect him.

Sounds as though it might convey a lot of interesting information about Turner but I am not sure I really want to see the movie. I love his paintings, I don't want to spoil it by learning too much about the man.

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

I would like to see this film. I find these kinds of movies fascinating.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Yes, you've made it sound enticing. Thanks for your review.

Author Joshua Hoyt said...

Never heard of it before but now that I've read here I definitely want to check it out!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gattina - enjoy Egypt! that's good you'll go and see the film sometime.

@ Bazza - he certainly seems to be .. while I hope to see the Constable exhibition at the V&A. I've learnt such a lot about the era, and about art writing these blog posts. I'd like to do more art history studying ...

Thanks so much for your comments - great to have them here and on the other post.

@ Diane - I imagine it might well be one of the films they'll show at the cinema ... and it's great you've got that little local cinema nearby.

Appreciate you took in my thoughts on the film .. and therefore won't be surprised on seeing it.

@ OOTP - it was a good film .. and I hope to get to see it again before it comes off our town cinema.

@ Alex - it's a good film so enjoy it when it comes out. In those days when you don't know what's going on .. I guess a drink to control the shakes was a 'good' alternative ... but definitely not something today.

@ Janie - yes Hannah was so expertly portrayed - Dorothy Atkinson did a great acting job with her. Glad you're aware of other Mike Leigh films ...

Can understand you'll have to wait .. and it will be interesting to read what you say ...

@ Beste - Turner certainly had a ruthless determination about him ... it seems some people can 'ignore' social media and utilise their full potential without it ... but as you question - I wonder .. life is so different.

@ Clarissa - the film is definitely worth seeing ... I just think my notes make it easier to comprehend - having some vague knowledge of the background ...

Good I'm glad Belle - the film - jogged into your memory .. that was very interesting too .. but more story like - albeit it wasn't real, but could well have happened, as there really was a Belle.

@ Joylene - I'm glad I haven't put you off the film. Timothy Spall won the best actor award at Cannes Film Festival .. he's a very good actor.

I expect in those days a woman was there for use, especially a prostitute, and she influenced Spall's feelings ... His house servant too .. I guess that was the norm too ...

@ Nick - yes it's definitely a film to see and to read more about Turner and his life. He obviously was extraordinarily talented - and thank goodness his father's barber's shop was in Covent Garden .. so the visiting dignitaries (for their wigs) saw the youngster quietly drawing their portraits - hence he got noticed.

@ Jo - I'm not sure of the stage of Parkinsons .. but I expect if you were already enjoying a glass at the outset of the disease you wouldn't stop - until in this day and age it became medically wise to do so.

If you enjoy Turner's work so much, it's worth finding out how and why he was painting as he did .. it certainly doesn't put you off .. if anything it opens your eyes to his talent and desire to use all learning for his vision and thus creations ..

@ Holly - I'm glad you're interested in seeing the movie ... well worth it ..

@ Teresa - glad you enjoyed this 2nd post about Turner ... and I'm sure you'll enjoy it ..

@ Josh - well I'm so pleased I've brought it to your attention .. and that you'll get to see it at some stage ...

Cheers everyone - thanks so much for visiting ...

Let me know if anyone gets to see the film - and then what you think of it .. please! Hilary

Trisha F said...

It sounds like it might make you both dislike him and admire him, by turns. And sounds like a rather intense portrayal of his life! These would be the gritty details most people might not think about when they see a Turner work on a gallery wall or in an art book.

Patsy said...

I haven't seen the film yet, but I'd like to.

I suppose it's not possible to fit 25 years into one film and they have to pick out the aspects they think will work best together, can be shown on screen and will sell the most tickets.

Murees Dupé said...

You have definitely piqued my interest. Have a great week Hilary.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Hi Hilary! Reading this has me interested to see the film as well. I hope they have it over here!!

SuperLux said...

Hmmm...this is interesting. I'd put this on my list.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Only a hundred and seventy years ago, but I wonder how such a man would fare in today's world. He would have been diagnosed with some psychological ailment perhaps even medicated which might have impeded his artistic creations.

Robyn Campbell said...

I'm intrigued. I want to see it. I hope I can. He was a fantastic artist. Tha portrait of Wordworth is stunning. Parkinson's is a dreadful disease. Two of my aunts had it. I think the drinking must have controlled it somewhat for him. He sounds like he wasn't a likable fellow. The movie must be really good. xoxoxo

Bish Denham said...

Sounds like he was a complicated person. Of course, that doesn't excuse bad behavior, but it does explain why he was the way he was. It's a movie I know I'd like to see. Belle, is already on my list!

Madeleine Sara said...

This is interesting Hilary as it is a film I wanted to see though a relative said it was disappointing. It sounds like he was quite a character though.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

He revealed his thoughts in his art.

Julie Flanders said...

How interesting that the landlady seems to be the only loving relationship he had. Sounds like a sad life really.

loverofwords said...

It's hard for me to learn about someone whose work I admire either art or film or performance and then read about their personal life and then try and weigh one against the other. Bill Cosby and Woody Allen come to mind. Turner was an artist whose work is breathtaking all these years later. I wonder if it is ego--"I am so wonderful and talented that I can do anything."

Karen Lange said...

Sounds intriguing. I appreciate your insight and overview. It really is interesting to consider and study the character of some in history. We can learn much, I think.

Have a great week!

Chatty Crone said...

Hilary I must be honest - I have never heard of it - now I will go look for it.

Kittie Howard said...

Ohhhh, but I love coming here! I always learn something really, really interesting. Thanks for those links. I lingered over them for quite some time. This is going to be my kinda movie.

Thanks for your comment. It's great to be back. Another reason I delayed is hub's older brother and only sibling passed.

Don't know about A-Z -- we're off to Italy in late June with much to do before then. The Challenge takes up so much time. We'll see, we'll see!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Trisha - I think intense portrayal is a good description for the film .. and yes that's what I learnt from writing these two posts - thanks for reminding me of those points ..

@ Patsy - I'm sure you'll enjoy it .. but please note bene my two posts - I think they add to and help my understanding of the film.

@ Murees - that's good I hope you get to see it when it gets to Cape Town.

@ Keith - they are bringing it out in the States sometime soon .. so enjoy!

@ SuperLux - that's good ... I hope you enjoy the film .. it's very British!

@ Susan - yes only 170 years ago .. it's not apparently that far away is it - but look where we've gone to in those intervening years .. life has dramatically changed.

Turner wouldn't haven't been inadvertently poisoned and there'd have been more help for the natural ailments .. cataracts, Parkinsons etc - I think his creativity would still have abounded if he'd lived today.

@ Robyn - it's an interesting documentary drama ... and I'm so glad I saw the exhibition and the film and have been able to post about them.

Haydon too was a great artist ... as you say from the Wordsworth painting. Parkinsons is really nasty I know ...

I think the drink probably helped him in some way maintain his creativity ... except for the odd over-indulgence.

He's our greatest painter .. so they say - and he was incredibly confident - not always the best .. but he was much admired in his skills that he kept learning.

@ Bish - I think he probably put his art first ... and the bad behaviour really came about from his illnesses - he was born 'rough' too - ie he had to learn his way in society.

I'm glad you'll see it .. and Belle too .. that's lovely - very interesting ...

@ Madeleine - yes now you understand my wanting to give an explanation for some of film's aspects - I'm sure you'll enjoy it more - because you've read this post. He was a character, but an introspective one and one of few words ...

@ Diane - I guess that's right .. his art talked for him ..

@ Julie - he was happy in the end and that relationship suited him ... she was her own woman.

@ Nat - I've just described my feelings about the film and Turner's life from what I've recently learnt - and feel if you see the film, you'll appreciate it more having read these two posts ... the era is so interesting: he was determined his collection was kept for the nation - and it was - thankfully.

Also his illnesses affected his work - which can be explained because of the diseases ...

@ Karen - glad you understand .. and I was pleased the film is somewhat controversial ... as I had to delve deeper and comprehend Turner, the artist, his illnesses at a time when the Industrial Revolution was at its highest ... I learnt that is for sure!

@ Sandie - no worries ... it's not out yet in the States ... coming soon.

@ Kittie - it's good to see you back and safely moved to NC. I'm glad you read the various links - and appreciate that took the time to do so .. that's great you'll get to see the film too ...

Oh dear I'm sorry about your pieces of news - both very difficult to deal with ... my thoughts.

Yes I understand re the A-Z .. if not this year then next .. a tour around North Carolina .. Italy - how wonderful ... and I do know you're busy.

Cheers and thanks so much everyone - delighted with your comments ...

and if anyone gets to see the film please report back! All the best - Hilary

Friko said...

Great artists are so often really rotten people. (Now there’s a subject for you) Turner obviously fits the mould.

As yu recommend the film so highly, I may take you up on it and go see it. Sadly, the local village hall may not show it for a while.

Brian Miller said...

huh, i will be honest, i have not heard of the film so i have a little research to do...the story is intriguing...but sounds like there is so much more to the story as well....

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Wonder why so many great artists live sad lives with unsatisfying relationships? Interesting. I hope to see the film. Your blogs have intrigued me. Thank you, Hilary!!!

Inger said...

Thanks for this review. I know I wanted to see Belle, now I want to see Turner as well.

Al Diaz said...

I don't think I've seen this movie announced here. I shall check it again. Thanks for the review, Hillary. Dragon Hugs!

Morgan said...

Haven't read up on Turner at all… thanks for all of this, Hilary. Gosh, I love learning from you!!! :)

Nicola said...

Sounds interesting, Hilary. I will have to look out to see if it comes over here. Thank you for the heads-up! All the best.

Carole Anne Carr Author said...

Shall definitely see the film when on TV, Hilary, husband can't negotiate steps, so hoping the wait to see it won't be long.

Carole Anne Carr Author said...

Thanks, Hilary.

Lisa said...

I did read your previous post on this, the one you wanted to write before you saw the film. I'm interested now to see it after reading both of your posts. Sounds hard, but intriguing. You've aroused my interest! And I still haven't seen Belle, though really want to.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Friko - ah rotten people! I think I'll steer clear ... Turner was selfish and confident, but he was aware .. he painted the ship the Zong after the Zong massacre to highlight the appallingness of the slave trade ... and he did try and help other artists - but I see your point from my two posts. I'll enjoy your review when you get to see it ...

@ Brian - it's not out in the States yet ... but will be soon and then onto the DVD scene I presume ..

@ Mary - creativity .. and passion for their art or subject ... no room for others. Glad you'll get to take a look ...

@ Inger - that's great you'll see Belle - that's watchable, while Turner is worth watching: slight difference?!

@ Al - it's coming out soon .. and I hope you get to see it at some stage.

@ Morgan - he's an amazing artist and we have a huge body of work here at the Tate Gallery. So pleased to see you here ...

@ Nicola - that's great .. it opened here first.

@ Carole - sorry about your husband not being able to negotiate steps - but at least in the future you'll be able to see it on the tv ...

@ Lisa - great you read both posts .. and yes I wrote the first one before I'd seen the film, so I wanted to just highlight the divisive nature of the film to audiences ... as if we know that - the film is easier to watch having that back ground understanding ...

Cheers to you all ... thanks - Hilary

M Pax said...

Despite the detractions, it sounds like a wonderful watch and a film I'd enjoy.

Michelle Wallace said...

I'm not a movie-person.
I think I've been to watch a movie on the big screen about thrice in the last 7 or so years...
Very bad.
I prefer reading the book.

M. J. Joachim said...

My husband and I enjoy watching films like this, so I'm sure we'll make the time to see it. Of course, both of your blog posts make it all the more intriguing for me. Thanks, Hilary :)

TALON said...

I hadn't heard of the movie about Turner, Hilary. He was so talented...so often it seems creativity takes a toll in such diverse and complicated ways.

Denise Covey said...

It must be so difficult to be a film director and decide what to include and what to leave out when transposing a life or a book to film. I take my hat off to them. They usually do a good job, but of course they can't please us all. I haven't seen this film, but will look out for it if it arrives in the antipodes.

Denise:)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mary - that's great that you will see the film - it's definitely worth it. I wonder how many beers it'll deserve ...?!

@ Michelle - there isn't a book to the film about Turner (two blog posts yes?!) .. but I understand your preference for books - enjoy them ...

@ MJ - that's good to know you'll see the film in due course, and am glad my post entice you ...

@ Talon - it's only just come out .. first released here in the UK. Turner certainly seems to have been very complicated - the film explains it well - as long as you're ready for this approach ...

@ Denise - Mike Leigh is an avant-garde film director ... so it's different: described as a docu-drama ... it's been a great eye-opener for me ... so much to learn about. I'm sure you'll both enjoy the film ..

Cheers and thanks for visiting and commenting .. Hilary

DMS said...

What an informational post! I don't remember hearing of this movie, but with all the background you provided I am definitely interested in seeing it! Thanks for sharing. :)
~Jess

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jess - so pleased I've generated interest in you getting to see Mr Turner, when it comes out ...

I must try and see it again this week - to remind myself and look at it in a new light .. Cheers Hilary