Kitty Fane: For God’s sake, Walter, will you stop punishing me? Do you absolutely despise me?
Walter Fane: No. I despise myself.
Kitty Fane: Why?
Walter Fane: For allowing myself to love you once.
I have to admit that I was very impressed by a movie I recently saw. It was “The painted veil“. Now and then I really like to watch movies, which are not that mainstream and which are a bit different from what is shown everyday. And “The painted veil” really is.
First of all: I absolutely like Edward Nortons ability to play all kinds of characters. Maybe this is because he’s always up to something new. And you can always count on him to give one hundred percent or more. No matter if he plays a pseudo-schizophrenic, a racist turning antiracist or an insecure loser turning into a maniac, just to mention a few. It’s the same with the character of Walter Fane, the bacteriologist, who is one of the two main characters in the movie. In the beginning he seems to be some weird and insecure kind of guy, whodeeply falls in love with a woman, that doesn’t love him – Kitty. Despite this fact he still clings to her and to the hope that she might marry him. And she does, but not out of love, but out of the mere need for a husband.
Knowing that he isn’t the love of her life, he grants his wife every wish to simplify her life and to convince her that he’s a good guy. And maybe even the right one for her. He is sensitive, almost submissive. The viewer can truly sense the love and appreciation he has for his wife and the viewer is really disturbed by the fact that Kitty doesn’t seem to appreciate him. You somehow get over the fact that she doesn’t love him, but you cannot get over the fact that she takes everything for granted and doesn’t even try to see him from a different angle. That’s one of the factors that makes the movie worth watching. There’s always some kind of tension between the viewer and one of the characters – and there’s definitely tension between the characters themselves.
The viewer experiences that Walter changes at a certain point of the movie. He discovers Kittys betrayal and forces her to accompany him into the chinese ‘wilderness’ – into the middle of a cholera epidemic. Once again Edward Norton manages it to make the viewer feel what his character feels. The disappointment, him building a wall around his heart, trying to hurt Kitty. He seems to have been frustrated by love, not ever going to believe in it anymore. The caring and loving man fades away. What’s left behind is a bitter man, ready to sacrifice himself and his wife to the greater good: He even refuses to vaccinate himself. Kitty – defiant as she is – also refuses to be vaccinated. Their relationship gets worse being in the chinese province. They start to hate each other, he experiences the disease destroying people and she gets bored. When she begins to help out in the orphanage she suddenly sees Walter from a different angle. She sees the man he is and the man everyone else sees – and admires. That’s the point when the viewer starts to feel for Kitty. At least it was for me. She falls in love with her husband, but he doesn’t want her anymore. He ignores her and shows her, that he isn’t going to forget what she did to him.
But the love grows again. They find the way back together. But that’s when tragedy hits them as well. (I’m not going to spoil the end, so that’s it for the story)
From my point of view there are several motifs in the movie, every single one portrayed equally well: trust, hope, betrayal, punishment, humanity and last, but not least: love. Love that conquers everything and everyone, but the one thing it can’t conquer: death.
I loved the movie. Everything about it: Edward Norton and Naomi Watts were gorgeous, the pictures were breath-taking and the story was well directed. It most certainly is a movie you can get sucked into for two hours.
I have to admit that all I knew about Naomi Watts before watching ‘The painted veil’ was that she once dated Heath Ledger. But she portrays the character of Kitty with such an intensity, that I surely will watch other movies of her in the near future. Besides: It was kind of refreshing to see Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber on the screen together, who were and still are a real-life couple. Liked their energy. 🙂
To summarize: ‘The painted veil’ is a fantastic drama, that lives by the performance of the two main actors, the soothing pictures of the chinese landscape and of course of the story, that was written by William Somerset Maugham in 1934. It floats, picks you up and takes you on a two-hour journey of life, love and tragedy.