Thursday, January 2, 2014

Gone with the Wind...but not forgotten

Okay, so I'm in my forties and I've never seen, or read, Gone with the Wind.

There's something delightful about the Christmas period when old movies come out of the woodwork to grace our television screens, and New Years' Day this year saw me sitting in my sleepwear, coffee in hand, magically no ads except the odd infomercial to interrupt, watching Katie Scarlett O'Hara telling her story of the Old South and her rollercoaster relationship with the infamous Rhett Butler.

So, laughably, my husband and I chortled over how bad the acting was, but, like anything else, the whole movie world has changed so many times through the years between when this was made and now that it can easily be excused. It's easy to compare it to a 2013 blockbuster, but when you think of the restraints of movie making back then, it really would have been quite spectacular. The scene where Scarlett goes looking for the doctor when Melanie is in labour was so 'extra' intensive, I'm sure it would have been quite ahead of its time. All those injured soldiers lying wounded and dying on the ground...

Like many stories from its time, Gone with the Wind is filled with drama, tragedy, loss and heartbreak. Scarlett's character is compared to the transition of the South, representing the change of Georgia before, during and after the war. I'm not sure if this is what the author had intended, but like all classics, it has been analysed, or maybe over-analysed.

As a movie watcher, I was disappointed by the end of the story. Rhett leaves, completely indifferent to what happens to Scarlett or their relationship. He's given up, had enough, thrown in the towel. As for Scarlett, she's a little less disappointing, but still not resolved. She's worked out she doesn't really love Ashley - he's not what she had built up in her mind over all those years she pined for him. She actually loves Rhett and was too blind to see or acknowledge it, and they were both too stubborn to just say it to each other. A common character conflict that has seemingly endured through the decades of storytelling, translating directly through to modern rom-coms, romance novels and contemporary romance. What got me is that ALL the threads of the story are completely left hanging. Scarlett decides she must go home to Tara once more to sort herself out and work out how she will get Rhett back. Everything from there on finishes with a question mark in my mind. For a start, how will her sister react? Scarlett stole her husband for her own gain and that thread was never resolved in the movie (I can't say if it was in the book, having not read it). What will become of Ashley? Yes, he has a business to continue and a son to look after, but didn't Scarlett promise Melanie she would take care of them both?

As a writer, I love this provokes the reader/viewer to ask these questions and think about the possibilities, long after they've finished reading/watching.

I was initially surprised that Margaret Mitchell only ever had one novel published...but as a writer, if I could write one book, a book that was translated to the big screen like this one, its characters bought to life and remembered as real people, I would be happy.