6 February 2000 | Lanwench
Eerie, beautiful "romance porn".
I first saw PAHR while in high school, and it was the beginning of a long and drawn-out love affair with the film. The look, feel and sound of it drew me in at once, and the open-endedness of it appealed to my romantic teenage notions, striking me as being terribly, terribly profound. I searched out the book, and the sequel (both out of print in the US) and had a good long obsession over the film.
Years later, I still appreciate it deeply, but I realize now that if I were to see it for the first time today, I might not be quite so entranced. Yes, it is moody and beautiful, full of deliciously gossamar images, beautiful actresses, a haunting soundtrack, and a hypnotically slow and deliberate pace... but I can now see that it is a very youthful effort on Wier's part. It is decidedly a young director's film, firmly mired in the style of its era (the 70s). The heavy-handedness of the direction is evident in many ways, mostly in the repeated metaphors of Miranda as a swan, an angel, etc.... It has anachronistic costumes, makeup and hair, although the sets design is attractive and accurate enough.
However, let it be noted that the film is far more about symbolism and atmosphere than anything else, and on that front, it succeeds admirably. Among the highlights:
The repressed Victorian schoolgirls, whose burgeoning sexual longings are channeled into torrid, purple verse and close romantic friendships
The famous corset-lacing scenelet
The implied relationship between Mrs. Appleyard and the "masculine" Miss McCraw
The disappearance of only the "pure": Miranda (love), Marion (science), Miss McCraw (math), and the rock's rejecting Edith (gluttony), Irma (worldliness), and all men.
One might go on about the sexual imagery of the rock itself, with its monoliths and chasms, but I will refrain. Because after you've seen the movie, you realize how many times these things have been hammered into your head.
I still love this film dearly, despite the obviousness of it all. I wish that a soundtrack were available, as the original music is lovely. If you know a teenager, or are one, this is the movie for you. May your love affair with it go on as long as mine.