“Sylvia” is truly haunting and captivating with its
cinematic palette of beauty and color. The film dissects the uneven
suicidal reality and exquisite love that embodied the revered poet
Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow). The life of Sylvia Plath, like the
poetry which earner her critical success after her death, has
always been surrounded by obscurity. The film portrays her
ill-fated life with an edge of hope and truth as it explores the
secret life she lead with her poet husband Ted Hughes (Daniel
Craig, “Road to Perdition”).

Janna Hutz
I wanna be a tragic literary figure when I grow up! (Courtesy of Focus Features)

This dark portrait is filmed with true respect for the works of
Plath, who committed suicide in 1963 by resting her head in a gas
oven. Death is a ghostly figure in the film, always hovering over
Plath, even throughout the early passion-filled years she spent
with Hughes. This spectre continues to haunt throughout her the
years of her motherhood and into the demise of her marriage. In the
film Sylvia says, “Dying is an art, like everything else. I
do it exceptionally well;” this is a line from one of
Plath’s poems.

“Sylvia” weaves together a marvelous biography in
its integration of fine acting and art direction. Paltrow assumes
Plath’s tortured personality by playing both a free spirit
and a depressed artist, always struggling with herself and the
questionable fidelity of her husband. In “Sylvia,”
Paltrow re-establishes herself as a fine actress, compensating for
some of her recent ill-chosen roles, as in “A View From the
Top.”

Craig, on the other hand, works within the constraints of the
script and gives a one-sided portrait of Hughes that focuses only
on his faults as a husband. Craig plays Hughes as rumors supposed
him to be — a dashing Englishman who stole Plath’s
heart with his poetry, but whose arrogance and achievements drove
her to her death. Together, both actors create an alluring
chemistry that conjures the true oddness of the pair but still
captures the love that lay at the basis of their tumultuous
relationship.

The achievement of “Sylvia” rests in the art
direction and production decisions of the newly established
director Christine Jeffs. The transitions and cinematography
greatly impact the viewer’s ability to glimpse Plath’s
angst-ridden life. From ocean waves to the fields of northern
England and the classic architecture of Cambridge, beautiful images
fill the movie.

“Sylvia” is captivating because of the evocative
nature of Plath’s poetry — there is gentle recitation
throughout the film — and because of the way it portrays the
glow of life even when death is imminent. The film presents
Plath’s life in the form of a poetic memoir, a form that may
not exactly exemplify the woman she was but which continues to cast
an elusive shadow over her mysterious abilities and thoughts.

Rating: 4 stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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