Thanks to the magic of the cinema, let's move back once again in the time to travel up to the convulsed reign of Charles II of England (May 29, 1660 - February 6, 1685). Previously, in the same binnacle already we had planned the same day´s run when we comment on the tape "Restoration" (Michael Hoffman, 1995).
We are before a movie of historical dyes directed by Laurence Dunmore in the year 2004, inspired by the Stephen Jeffreys's theatrical homonyn work (author in turn of the script of this film), where they present John Wilmot's tribulations (again colossal Johnny Depp), 2th Count of Rochester, a literary daring, rebellious and profligate genius who enjoyed the friendship and the confidences of the king Charles II.
Since privileged spectators we are present at the special relation of fondness and hatred established between the monarch and the aristocrat; the latter, which weak vane at the expense of the wind, so soon he enjoys the royal favors as falls down suddenly in misfortune due to his talkativeness and his insolence ("I hate the monarches, as well as to the thrones that occupy ... "), meeting hereby pushed to divide towards the exile, far from the court. In a sense, and saving the differences, the personage of the licentious count us resembled that of the Dr. Robert Merivel (before his definitive redemption) ..., that also alternated the appreciation and the scorn of the lewd British monarch.
We are in London in 1675, the year of death of the celebrated Dr. Thomas Willis and the date that it marked the beginning of the works of San Paul's Cathedral, under the order of the architect Christopher Wren. There is reconstructed a city that had remained decimated and devastated after suffering successively The Great Plague of bubonic pest (1665-1666) and the destroyer The Great Fire, at the beginning of September, 1666.
John Wilmot's eventful history is in addition that of a depressive, alcoholic and syphilitic patient, one more of the longest list of illustrious prominent figures who suffered this infectious disease: popes (Alejandro VI - the Pope Borgia), artists (Beethoven), writers (Baudelaire), politicians (Abraham Lincoln), gansters (Al Capone)...
John Malkovich is Charles II
In our modest opinion, the characterization of Charles II is more achieved in this film (John Malkovich, with a false nose certainly cyraniana) that in "Restoration" (in spite of possessing there the presence of the most correct actor Sam Neill for the same role).
The thick grain of the cinematographic movie, the misty environment that impregnates with certain chlorophyll tone the grown older color of the images, the impeccable artistic direction, the richness of the wardrobe and of the exquisite putting in scene, the lighting interior provided by hundreds of candles, the poetical theatrical dialogs, and the faithful portrait of the glories and the miseries of the 17th century contribute to this film all his particular beauty.
Certainly, to all this it is necessary to add the sound track of the composer Michael Nyman, specialized in recreating musical environments of the epoch, since already he had demonstrated previously in "The Draughtsman´s Contract” (Peter Greenaway - 1982).
And as sample of our devotion, a small gift for hearing. The beautiful qualified piece "If", with Michael Nyman to the piano and the velvet voice of the contralto Hilary Summers:
Others two debaucheries accompany the count of Rochester in his raids, aristocrats and playwrights who existed really; they are Sir George Etherege (Tom Holland) and about Sir Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (the potbellied Johnny Vegas). About this trio of dissolutes orbit like a satellite the young man Billy Downs (Rupert Friend), ephebe towards which Rochester inclines his homosexual trends. In fact, of the original movie there was cut a scene in which Wilmot and Downs were kissing each other passionatly.
The women occupied a basic role in John Wilmot's dissolute existence; from his self-sacrificing and puritanical mother, the Countess of Rochester (Francesca Annis), pawned in turns his son into a God-fearing citizen, his long-suffering wife, Lady Elizabeth Malet (interpreted by the delicate Rosamund Pike), up to his dear ones, the everlasting Jane (the red-haired Kelly Reilly), the prostitute who will accompany him until the last days of his existence, and the proud Lizzie Barry (Samantha Morton), theatrical actress and lover shared with the king, turned into "the deathbed´s love" who would make suffer the unspeakable thing to him, even up to making him lose the head.
Let's observe these former schematic engravings that show the devastations and the original treatment of the syphilis:
- In that of the left side, attributed to Albrecht Dürer (who also suffered the disease) it shows the cutaneous tumour injuries of a patient, the syphilitic gums. For a long time, the dermatological manifestations of the syphilis were confused with the leprosy.
- In that of the right a legend appears mentioning the called "Venus´s Pain”, doubtful honor in favour of the Greek goddess of the love as mistress of the disease, as well as the application of therapeutic measures to a few patients based on mercurial (possibly a precursor tub of perspiration like that there was using the Dr. Jean Fernel). Already in the 1st century of our age, Dioscorides was describing the healing properties of the cinnabar on pustules and burns. If this mineral was warming up on a few bowls of iron with lids of clay, it was possible to obtain the Hydrargyros or "water of silver" (mercury), a toxic liquid substance on having been ingested.
For a long time, the syphilis also was known as "the great imitator", due to the fact that in the initial phases of this disease (primary and secondary) it could be confused easily with other pathologies. The discovery of the serologic diagnostic tests put the end point to so many confusions.
In the movie there exists a scene in which the own Rochester takes the hand to himself to a side afflicted by a sudden abdominal pain, which he imputes to the ingestion of some food that is rotting in his guts... This way one tells it to his servant, a felon rescued of the creek and bravely nicknamed Allcock (Richard Coyle).The Rochester´s marriage posing for a familiar portrait
John Wilmot´s famous portrait crowning with laurel to a small monkey, by Jacob Huysmans
Jacob Huysmans, the Flemish catholic painter, came to the English court during the Restoration thanks to the patronage of Queen Catalina de Braganza, wife of Charles II. There exist two versions of this work:
- The first one of them property of Lord Brooke, was remaining in Warwick's Castle, until his owner changed domicile.
- The second one is a copy, nowadays exposed in the National Portrait Gallery of London.
SOME MEDICINAL PLANTS
In this movie there exist a few scenes corresponding to a theatrical representation of "Hamlet" in Betterton's Theatre. They are led by Lizzie Barry, in Ofelia's, and she recites a few verses of the immortal Shakespeare mentioning to a few medicinal herbs; probably hereby the actress was catalyzing her emotions on the death while she was inspiring by the figure, probably already sick, of the pale count of Rochester, present among the public:
- Fennel: used against the cold, the sore throat, the asthma, the bronchitis, the indigestions, the colics (especially in children), like antiflatulent, and in addition it favors the increase of milk in the lactation.
- Columbine: used in England to treat the ardor of mouth and throat, as well as in the shape of syrup to treat the fevers.
- Rue: useful in the treatment of the amenorrea, the gastrointestinal spasms, the parasitosis, the varicose veins and the haemorrhoids, for the hackneyed treatment of the vitíligo and the leucodermia, as sedative for the earache and for the stomach pains. His toxicity must be used by given prudence and is not indicated during the pregnancy (it can induce the abortion) and the mother lactation.
A CURIOUS ANECDOTE
Lord Rochester worked definitively his own misfortune after insulting to his majesty with a theatrical pornographic and obscene representation. While the ballerinas were dancing on the stage, a few women distributed showy dildos among the public. In the reality, of the budget of the movie 3672 sterling pounds became spended to pay the confection of these sophisticated instruments, carved in wood as faithful reproductions of the authentic dildos of the 17th century.
After the baneful representation, the count of Rochester will turn into a fugitive, endorsed only by the company of his darling Billy Downs. After the death of this one in a street brawl, Rochester's progressive physical and moral declivity will finish in his own deathbed. Accompanied by Jane and Allcock disguised as an Italian charlatan, the false Dr. Bendo, Wilmot hides himself in the fairs defrauding the public with his supposed miraculous potions.
Besides the loss of the hair, of the gums that destroy his skin and his bones, and of the cutaneous typical eruption of a secondary syphilis, the suffering of a picture of neurosyphilis provokes in John Wilmot the appearance of loss of the vision and blindness, difficulties for the deambulación and urinary incontinence. To these these symptoms it is necessary to add the distress provoked by the craving and the alcoholic dependence.
To finish, hete here a poetically syphilitic curiosity; it is a question of "Neosifilización", a poem of the Mexican writer Eduardo Poletti that one walks for the history and the treatment of this disease. It seems ingenious and accurate.
Certainly, Laurence Dunmore dedicated this movie, among others, to Marlon Brando! ...; and stopping to demolish the imagination, transforming the impossible thing in possibly ... what great count of Rochester could represented Brando in his youth!...