The Remains of the Day (1993)

The Remains of the Day (1993)

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The art of gazing wistfully into the middle distance.
The art of gazing wistfully into the middle distance.

Twitter Plot Summary: The unwavering loyalty of a butler to his household is tested by the romantic interest of the housekeeper.

Five Point Summary:

1. A proverbial spoon up the bum.
2. Drax and Superman: United at last!
3. The young butler and chamber maid show the old folks how it’s done.
4. Death and yet still an unwavering sense of duty.
5.  Some years later, and he’s still got a proverbial spoon up his bum.

I almost feel an affinity with Anthony Hopkins butler Mr Stevens – I, much like him, tend to keep a lot bottled up simply because that’s what is deemed to be acceptable. Except as this film proves, that really isn’t the case. Unwavering dedication is acceptable under certain circumstances, but it doesn’t mean you should switch off to events taking place around you and be completely ignorant to what’s right in front of you.

It is that unsettled period in the 1930s when war seems inevitable and many in positions of power are doing what they can to prevent it. One such man is Lord Darlington (Fox), whose efforts to prevent war ultimately prove to be the act of a Nazi sympathiser, whether intentional or otherwise. Stevens is an accomplished butler, doing precisely what good butlers should do – fade into the background until needed, and never get involved in politics or, it seems, base emotions such as love, grief or compassion. Stevens is ultimately a prickly character, yet he’s never an unpleasant presence on screen. This is in part down to Hopkins’ stellar performance for sure, but also because this is Stevens’ job and what he was trained to do, no more, no less. There are two moments throughout the course of the film that emphasise this, although admittedly one is an ongoing narrative thread which I’ll return to in a moment. The individual sequence is the death of Stevens’ father, which he treats with the same demeanour as if someone had asked him to mop the floor – a case of “Certainly, and what would you like me to do after that?”

The ongoing narrative thread I mentioned is the romantic interest shown in Mr Stevens by new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Thompson). Initially they start off at each other’s throats, so to speak, before a kind of grudging admiration exists between them, ultimately leading to her interest in him romantically. Except, of course, that he is dedicated to his work and doesn’t have time for such frivolous matters. Without going into too much detail over the story, Miss Kenton finds herself in an unhappy marriage and Stevens finds himself incapable of opening up after years of work as a butler. As romantic tales go, this one’s a completely melancholic affair.

She had no concept of personal space, much to his chagrin.
She had no concept of personal space, much to his chagrin.

The Remains of the Day was an Oscar-bothering effort following its release in 1993 and that is clear from every facet of the production, however being released in the same year as Schindler’s List there’s only ever going to be the one winner in that fight. It’s still a supremely accomplished effort though, and fully deserving of any other accolade you may wish to give it. Except perhaps best action film, I doubt it would win anything in that particular category…

And on a completely unrelated note, it was nice to see Drax, the villain from Moonraker (Michael Lonsdale), and Superman (Christopher Reeve edition) sharing some screen time. A rare pleasure and a moment that spawned a complete series of tales in my head that would no doubt make a terrible movie. It would still be better than Superman IV, however.

Score: 4.5/5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nlyIvHY1Xw

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