I love film festivals, but my absolute favourite each year is the British Film Festival. I can walk for five minutes and be at the cinema showing a fabulous selection of films. You won’t be surprised to hear that I especially enjoy those with a literary flavour.
Benediction is a movie about the poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon won the Military Cross for gallantry, but went on to oppose the war and write poems about the bloodiness of the trenches. This behaviour made him an embarrassment to the authorities, so he was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh (which I have visited – they have a small museum there for the soldier poets) where he befriended and encouraged Wilfred Owen. Sassoon was gay, although he did marry, and after the war he suffered from survivor’s guilt. It is his own sense of failure (sexually, morally and as a poet) which makes this film almost unbearably sad. Warning – have the tissues handy!
To Olivia is a highly topical movie, since it tells the story of Roald Dahl’s young daughter, Olivia, who died of encephalitis, due to measles. After her death, which occurred before there was a measles vaccine, Dahl and his wife fought hard to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated. This is a film that should be seen by anyone not yet vaccinated against COVID. It was beautifully acted and very moving indeed. I loved it! Warning – have the tissues handy!
Miss Marx is about Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx, and a tireless worker in promoting socialism. Her lover, Edward Aveling, was a playwright and in one interesting scene the two of them act out lines from Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. The writer Olive Schreiner, author of The Story of an African Farm, was friendly with Eleanor and she also appears in the film. However, I had a very mixed response to this movie – good in parts. And never in all my life have I attended a film with such an utterly dire musical score – punk rock music so loud it hurts your ears. Warning – best to give this one a miss, but if you do go, take ear muffs!
And the movie The Duke has a gorgeous James Bond moment right near the end which is very funny. No tissues are required for this one.