Plath in the Pictures

Sylvia is a film about the Pulitzer prize-winning poet Sylvia Plath. This movie is a must-see for anyone who owns Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Sylvia and Daniel Craig as her adulterous husband, Ted Hughes. Paltrow redeems herself after Shallow Hal and gives a forceful performance, full of nuance. Paltrow portrays an emotional and passionate genius in the most content and the most heart-broken moments of her life. The script brilliantly communicates the shadow of self-destruction that haunted Plath’s life and poetry. The story, however, seems to be based on Plath’s poems, instead of on true events. Each scene is documented as a past memory reflected through Plath, instead of portraying the realism of the moment. For example, in one scene Plath and Hughes are stranded in the ocean, and as they sit in this vast body of water Plath breaks into poetic rhyme. It seems unlikely that this actually happened; however it ingeniously illustrates Plath’s philosophy. The world to Plath was a compilation of metaphors, similes and hexameters just waiting to be written down. Ironically, her despair is her greatest inspiration and simultaneously her destruction. Without the anguish, she is unable to satisfy herself through poetry. Without happiness, however, she loses her sense of purpose. The film dynamic is inspiring and depressing in the same scenes. The inspiration of Plath’s greatest works can be recognized in the picture. The movie at times parallels Frida, another film about a brilliant and tortured artist, Frida Kahlo. Frida also revolves around a successful couple plagued by adultery and betrayal. Plath lacks the jovial and festive disposition of Kahlo, and she does not enjoy the “happily ever after” ending, ubiquitous in Hollywood chick-flicks. So what is good about Sylvia? The acting is superb, a shot of one fully nude Gwyneth Paltrow, abundant symbolism (look for water and light), and a realistic love story for a change. What’s not so great? The film perhaps sensationalizes her life at times. WARNING: Potentially a big tear jerker! (If you want something fun and light go see Elf.) I give Sylvia eight of my ten fingers.