Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Portrait of a Lady—Glimpses of the Victorian Hand

Anyone who knows me well knows that I cannot speak on the subject of film without bringing up one of my favorites, Jane Campion's 1996 masterpiece, The Portrait of a Lady. The film was made on the heels of her 1993 success The Piano, but did not reach the same acclaim. In fact, the DVD is currently out of print. However, Jane Campion's love for the costume drama led her to directing Bright Star, which I mentioned in the previous entry.

The film's opening credits fade in and out over what one can guess are contemporary women about the same age as our heroine, Isabel Archer. The film's title is written on the hand, ever so delicately. Perhaps it was written by the same person who not only did all of the calligraphy for this movie, but for Bright Star, as well.

The written word is scarce in this film, but not worth ignoring. As Isabel packs her bags, she pulls slips of paper that are tucked into a crevice of her wardrobe door. Perhaps these are her vocabulary words of the day? Whatever they may be, the words foreshadow the tone of the film.

Notice the use of all uppercase letters—this is not something very common of the period, and does not make for the best readability. As bizarre as it may seem, it is unique and interesting.

The last small bit of calligraphy included is for Isabel's world travel sequence. This sequence was done in the style of an early film, and the writing is reminiscent of captions one may have written in a photograph album from that period.

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