‘Shadowlands’ and ‘The Remains of the Day’ are just two of actor (Sir) Anthony Hopkins’ films in which he gave his most artistic, dynamic performances. The similarities and differences in the two films are interesting.
Both films were made in 1993 when Anthony Hopkins was at the pinnacle of the phenomenal success which continued over the next decade and beyond. In 1991 he won an Oscar for his portrayal of Dr Hannibal Lecter in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, a dark and entrancing performance, which Hopkins is undoubtedly most renowned for in his film career, which has to date, spanned 42 years, outpacing all the British leading actors to whom he has been likened.
‘Shadowlands’, set in 1952 England, is a true story, with Anthony Hopkins playing the prolific writer C .S. Lewis, a quiet professor of English Literature at Oxford University who leads an ordered, restrained life until he meets with Joy Gresham (Debra Winger), an American divorcee. As deep friendship advances, in typical Hopkins character style he struggles to repress his growing feelings for this woman, finally allowing himself to open up to the exquisite pleasure of love, for the first time in his life but this sensitive, touching love story moves on to present almost unbearable choices for Jack (Hopkins). Weighing up the pain of losing love, having only just found it in the Autumn of his life, there is no real contest ultimately. The lovers make a pact “the pain then…is part of the happiness now”. ‘Shadowlands’ is a poignant inspirational film which should not be missed. There is also a book by Brian Sibley which was also originally called ‘Shadowlands’ but has recently been retitled ‘The True Story of C S Lewis and Joy Davidman’, telling this joyful but tragic story to the world.
The Remains of The Day
The lavish Merchant/Ivory production ‘The Remains of the Day’, also set in England, is another type of love story, of loyalty, restraint and stubborn pride. In the background the film touches on the politics of the day between senior British politicians and their German counterparts, hinting at scandal and misguided beliefs of the British aristocracy. Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, a devoted butler to Lord Darlington, at Darlington Hall in grand country house setting reminiscent of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, the well-known English television drama. Emma Thompson, Hopkins’ co-star plays Miss Kenton, the housekeeper for the country estate, a vivacious, high-spirited young woman with a mind of her own. Again, Anthony Hopkins plays a man in his middle years who has devoted his life to his employer and the ordered routine of genteel upper-class life in the country before the second world war. At first Stevens and Miss Kenton clash horrendously, both equal in servant hierarchy within the grand house, but the relationship develops slowly and is at times painful to watch, as Hopkins constantly battles to keep the relationship between the two as proper and formal as he believes it should be. The film acknowledges Miss Kenton’s love for Stevens first and as a spectator you feel like shaking Hopkins for daring to take this character’s suppressed and restrained feelings to the limit. The movie is beautifully filmed and the big close-up scene between Stevens and Miss Kenton at the crescendo of their relationship is where Anthony Hopkins really shows us the quality and depth of his acting – at that moment when he closes his eyes, everything is expressed. No script writer could have conjured up that look that said it all behind Hopkins’ closed eyelids. ‘The Remains of The Day‘ is an excellent film which could be watched again and again to catch the subtle nuances and reveal different interpretations of unanswered questions. Abigail – Anthony Hopkins’ daughter plays a cameo role as a housemaid in this movie. The film was adapted from a novel by the same name, by Kazuo Ishiguro, who won a Booker prize for this masterpiece.
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