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 1994 - Mesmer

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~Lilith~
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PostSubject: 1994 - Mesmer   Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:02 pm

Alan as Franz Anton Mesmer



Quote :
In eighteenth-century Vienna, Franz Anton Mesmer was enthusiastically propounding a controversial treatment called animal magnetism for patients considered mad or emotionally unstable. Unfortunately he had yet to achieve any lasting successful results using this treatment. This is a problem for both Mesmer the man and "Mesmer" the movie.

Mesmer's point is that the body cannot be treated independently of the emotions; that there is a connection - a life force - that runs through everything in the world and this life force cannot be ignored. He attempts to treat patients by sticking iron rods in the ground to absorb magnetism from the earth, encouraging them to will themselves back to health and he also runs his hands over their bodies, especially their breasts. Since two of his patients are nubile young women, this treatment is shown over and over.

Even for a viewer with no medical or historical background, it's not hard to see what Mesmer is really doing with his patients as opposed to what he thinks he's doing. He's treating abused people with the first hint of kindness they've ever received in their lives and they are responding to it with eagerness to do whatever he wants of them. He offers hormonal young women who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of close relatives a soothing sensual pleasure through touch all in the name of medical treatment. Imagine the choice: Alan Rickman stroking your breasts or a medical doctor opening a vein to bleed you. Which would you pick?

Probably the best thing I can say about Rickman's performance is that he actually makes you believe that Mesmer only wants to heal the girls and not just have his jollies with them, that he truly believes in his theory and feels that it is the only thing that can help them, and that he is convincingly opposed to the thoughtless cruelty of the medical profession. Unfortunately, what Rickman cannot do is make you believe that Mesmer is an attractive or sympathetic character. And this is where the movie stumbles early on and never recovers.

Mesmer treats his patients with the same clinical care that a scientist would show his lab rats: a negative quality of not harming them beyond what is necessary to effect the cure he's searching for. He is willing to see everyone from the nobility to the peasantry but he is quick to discard them when they fail to get better. His treatment and rejection of a group of poor lunatics who invade his home is typical as is his sulky dismissal of them when they remain afflicted - after only one treatment.

Has anyone else noticed how misogynistic this movie is? All the women are either shrews (Frau Mesmer), frigid wives (Maria Theresa's mother, whose husband blames her coldness for his actions with their daughter and who seems to validate the accusation by fleeing), hypochondriacs (the women of Paris) or passive, inarticulate victims (Francesca and Maria Theresa, although Amanda Ooms rises above the role and gives an excellent performance with absolutely no help from the script).

"You abandoned me" Maria Theresa tells Mesmer when she meets him again in Paris at the end of the film. And she's right but not in the way the script means. Mesmer abandons her when her sight comes back - no thanks to his treatment, by the way; she falls and hits her head - and she becomes the successfully treated patient who's going to validate his theory once and for all. As a reward he encourages her to believe she loves him - the same love that he rejects when it is offered by Francesca, the patient who does not respond to the treatment.

Rickman won a Best Actor award for this performance at the World Film Festival in Montreal. It must have been a lean year for the competition. He runs the full gamut of Rickman expressions with an unfortunate tendency to linger in The Profound Moment: he stares into the middle distance with saucer eyes, lets his lower jaw go slack and tilts his head to the side. This usually precedes a flashback of some kind. When he is stroking a patient, especially one of the girls, he throws his head back in orgasmic parody that suggests less a love scene than an episode of auto-eroticism.

As for The Great Kissing Scene In The Garden, I must admit that I didn't think it amounted to much, mainly because Rickman is so passive while Amanda Ooms energetically hoovers his lips. The scene at the beginning of the movie when he lays her on the piano in front of a crowd and calms her down, finally raising his head to stare blearily at the spectators with a post-coital gaze is much more sensual. It's impossible not to think Frau Mesmer is too far off the mark when she's suspicious of what he's doing with the girls.

It's a pity that when he finally got a lead role it was in such a flawed movie. There is no character development for Mesmer; he's as convinced of his treatment at the end of the film as he was at the beginning and still doesn't have a successful cure to show for it. (But he does somehow predict the outbreak of the French Revolution so that could count for something, I suppose.) He acquires no new knowledge of himself or his fellow beings, no added maturity as a result of his experiences and no successes either professionally or personally. It does not make for an emotionally satisfying movie.

But his hair looks good and he does wear his costumes very well.

http://www.rickmanistareview.com/mesmer.html

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