Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Julie Christie in 'Darling' is anything but... (1965)

'Darling' has been an interesting film for me to experience over time. When I first watched it, years ago, I felt as if it were my duty as a fan of the 'Swinging Sixties' era to see it. I was initially curious about the film since Julie Christie had (deservedly) won the Best Actress Oscar for it in 1965. This was the breakthrough performance that made her a bona fide English star. John Schlesinger directed it, so it had to have some depth. But I wondered at the time what it all meant. I wondered what the point of it was. 
After watching it again recently, whatever I hadn't grasped before was abundantly clear. The character of Diana Scott in 'Darling' is anything but what the title suggests. The film manages to show us there are Diana Scotts, of varying degrees, in our world - both then and now. Diana is someone whose only talent lies in getting whatever she wants. 
She admits to it early on as she describes her life - that even as a child, she was always someone who was picked for things. She is incredibly self-centered and opportunistic. There is absolutely no meaning in her life other than to get satisfaction in some way. Every moment of her existence and in every experience she has with other people is reduced - by her - to simply being about her. Every relationship she has must service her own needs. Not once in the entire journey we take with Diana Scott does she think about someone else's feelings. She is, in fact, one of the most deplorable, selfish and unattractive female characters in the history of films. 
Julie Christie plays Diana Scott with a very believable but chillingly singular beat. She may have varying emotions, but she maintains the same rhythm no matter what the situation. 'I, me, mine' is her mantra. It is understandable that decent people can be taken with her, since she has a childlike charm and innocence. But there are moments when it's staggeringly evident that Diana Scott is nothing short of a monster. 
Diana Scott's journey is one that allows her to go from London housewife, to mistress, to famous actress, to a European princess. Perhaps all of the visions or hopes that any attractive woman might have ever had for herself, Diana Scott manages to experience in her lifetime. Yet she is never grateful and she is never happy. Even she doesn't seem to realize it, as she alters much about herself when she retells her story in voiceover for a magazine article. And at the end of the film, despite her every questionable act or behavior, no one in the public is even aware how void of humanity this woman is when they see her photo on the cover of a magazine and pick up a copy. To the outside world she has lived a charmed life and she is darling. It's chilling to think how many successful (or simply famous) people today might fit that very description. Now I see where Schlesinger was going with this. 'Darling' speaks volumes about people who incessantly seek attention, validation or power. This vehicle we're seeing might be a thing of beauty, but it is void of humanity... and therefore leads a sad existence.

4 comments:

  1. I have yet to see this, though I've seen quite a few of Julie Christie's other films. Based on what you've described, she seems like she'd be the perfect actress to play a character like this.

    There's always been a sort of coldness with her -- not in a bad way, mind you. But she's got that clipped English accent which lends itself (to my mind) to a sort of naturally icy delivery. Plus, that sharp jawline and the sort of regally "distant" quality I've always found evident in the looks she gives to other characters.

    Or maybe I'm just not one for English blondes... :)

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  2. She was very good in this as an icy cold character capable of presenting a slightly warmer facade.

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  3. The film is equally about the corruption and selfishness of British high society as it is about the Christie character.

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    1. Interesting point, I can see that. I mainly see her character representing any of these people we see in life who are entitled, or simply stop at nothing to get their way and to be successful. Their packaging may look nice, but they can be completely dead on the inside.

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