Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Age of Innocence—Calligraphic Opulence

To continue my love of calligraphy in movies, I bring you The Age of Innocence. This 1993 film is Martin Scorsese's directorial adaptation of Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same title.

The handwritten word is almost a character itself in the film which was done by calligrapher Bernard Maisner. The opening credits were designed by Saul and Elaine Bass. Saul Bass is best know for his title sequences for movies like Psycho and West Side Story. In this title sequence we see line after line of copperplate calligraphy creating a texture over a blooming flower.

The set director and props master went to great detail to include lavish details that would only be seen for seconds. A perfect example is the next still of Mrs. Mingott selecting flatware for dinner to welcome Countess Ellen Olenska.

The invitation is sent and presented. Of course there is no address on the envelope below, as it would have been delivered by hand and most likely delivered with an outer envelope, much like a wedding invitation. The outer envelope was removed before it was received by the lady or gentleman of the house. This was done so the recipient would receive his or her formal invitation without dirt or fingerprints from the delivery man.

Next is the invitation, beautifully written on stationery known as formals. If you look carefully, you can tell that the page would open like a card, but the invitation is written only on the front of the folded paper. One would also use a formal to send a letter or acceptance or regret to the event.

Sadly, everyone sends regrets. Below is a still from the montage.

Later in the film, Newland Archer sends a bouquet of yellow roses to Countess Ellen Olenska. He includes his calling card in an envelope. Note the silver calling card case.

This is an absolutely beautiful movie, not just for the calligraphy but for the story, costumes, sets, and even food. If you have a love for costume dramas, than this will most likely be somewhere toward the top of your list.

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