I think love is pain…
Normally I write a little bit here before revealing my thoughts on the film but this time I am going to leave you with a quote from Shakespear's The Tempest from which the film takes it's title. This should make more sense in a moment…
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
At the time of writing Rich and Strange is the oldest, but by no means THE oldest, Hitchcock film I've watched so far and I would emplore anybody to seek out a good early black and white talkie from this era too! There is something that is quite different about these old films, the earliest of their kind, that is very different even to the films that were being produced even a mere 10 years later. You really get the sense that the fact that this was even a film was part of the entertainment in itself.
Hitchock, along with many other film directors of the time, was really only just getting into the swing of this whole 'sound' thing. In interviews I've recently listened too, he's very cool about the introduction of sound into his movies, it was simply another element to use and he took it in his stride. But dialogue? Maybe that was different. He talks about sound but not specifically dialogue. I felt that although this was a talkie, it was still vey much a silent movie. Whilst some characters do talk, the conversation is limited and alot of the story is still very much conveyed through looks and glances and suggestive movements.
There are even many moments when intertitles (title cards) appear on the screen explaining what's going on. Watching this with sound it seems like they are not needed but then I imagined that it's possible this film may have played in several places that would have had the equiplment to play the film but not process the sound so there are going to be a series of transitional films that have sound but have to cater for silent set-ups. I guess it's true that we always have and always will live in interesting times!
On to the film itself… It's a tragedy… but with the twist of a happy ending… sort of.
The leading couple, Fred (Henry Kendall) and Emily Hill (Joan Barry) are living in suburbia and whilst Emily seems fairly happy, Fred is obviously deeply troubled and craving more from life. No sooner is this revealed then the means to fulfil this desire becomes a reality. The two embark on an adventure together but soon find themselves out of their depth and their relationship completely torn apart by other people.
Fred falls for the fun and exciting German 'Princess' (a fraud) while Emily falls for the Commander Gordon (the understading soulmate type). They spend all their time apart and almost assume completely new lives.
Something interesting happens though, and this is why I think the film gets it's name from Rich and Strange quote. Their marriage is completely destroyed and almost dissolved… but then it is transformed and renewed. Ultimately they end up back together and better for what they've been through. It's a very universal concept. All matter is energy and when it is consumed it is transformed into something new. It is never truly destroyed, only transfered into what it has been consumed by.
The title 'Rich and Strange' has less to do with the money inherited and more to do with what their marriage becomes.
Before the film started there was a brief introduction from some film critic and he noted the interesting point of the lack of children in this film and how that is essentially what leads them into their transgressions. They don't have children to hold them together like most relationships and so they fall folly of distractions. Whilst the film has many comedic moments in it, this underlying subtext gives it quite a serious message.
I think the critic missed a bit off the end of his thinking though. It isn't children that pull these two idiots back together. It is love, the pain of love, the pain of loosing love. Emily feels this pain and it leads her face to face with the 'princess' (for me the real triumphant piece of the film) as she just stands there in the doorway and looks at her, so much said that isn't said, both trapped in a moment, in a stand off that is rich and strange… that is love.