The Film: The Scapegoat (2012) – United Kingdom
The gripping theme music plays over titles. It’s 1952 and the country is preparing for the coronation. The first flash of genius filmmaking happens as a professor, played by Matthew Rhys, goes into a pub after being let go from his job. He looks into a mirror and the barman enters with his change. But he hasn’t even ordered. Then, across the bar he sees someone — himself.
I’ve had such a horrible time with modern remakes and adaptations. Cultural concepts are seen through such a strong modern lens the emphasis becomes righting historical wrongs instead of presenting the ideas of being of the time. And while this adaption does feel modern and readers of the du Maurier book will be most likely disappointed, it is a wonderful production, a rich story, and intelligent filmmaking.
I adore movies that understand their audience has seen movies before. They don’t bother to explain themselves to the point they become boring. Nor does this production become a complicated web too wrapped in itself to be enjoyable. Enjoyable is the very would I would use to describe it. There is the light feeling of watching a television production instead of a heavy Oscar-bait drama, and though it deals with abrasive subjects it does not weigh you down. It chimes with tenderness and remains emotionally intriguing without becoming emotionally taxing — which makes it immensely rewatchable.
Matthew Rhys does an excellent job and is equally good in both of his roles. The stellar supporting cast is a fun mix of actors and actresses who also play the comedic and tragic with a delicious balance. Eileen Atkins, Jodhi May, Alice Orr-Ewing, Andrew Scott, Silvie Testud and more. Eloise Webb who plays the young Mary Lou is wonderfully watchable. The women are the real heart of the film.
Writer/Director Charles Sturridge plunges in and the film zings along, equal parts clarity and art — his real talent lies in capturing the emotional core and translating it on multiple levels. There is a true fluidity of thoughtfulness that carries through from title to credits. It never veers off course. Every turn and shift in the story feels like a bend in the same road, and with his gift for subtlety and subtext Sturridge navigates it naturally.
The novel was first adapted into film in 1959 by director Robert Hamer, with Alec Guinness in the main roles and Bette Davis as the Countess. I have yet to lay my hands on it but I’m very much looking forward to it as I love to explore how one idea can be translated. Here I believe they made some wise decisions in the translation for a modern audience, wrapping the film around the time period from start to finish.
With the new year peaking around the corner, self-reflection is inevitable. The Scapegoat is a great period drama with a deeper look at the grass not necessarily being greener, forgiveness, selfishness, and love. The complicated family relationships, layered performances, the intrigue and drama complete with a sharp ending, make this a great watch for Christmas. Add piles of blankets, a cup of tea — with a dash of something stronger — and you have the perfect night in.
The Food: Earl Grey Popcorn
There is no flavor quite like earl grey tea with its distinct bergamot oil warmth that plays on the front of your tongue all bright and calming. A wonderful bloom of scent and taste that seems even more felicitous in this season of cold nights, pine, clove, and orange.
- 1/4 corn kernels
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2-4 teaspoons earl grey tea
- 1 teaspoon milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon honey
Grease a baking tray and set the oven to 200°.
Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove the unpopped kernels and place the popcorn in a mixing bowl.
In a saucepan combine the sugar and vanilla on medium heat. When the sugar begins to dissolve and bubble, add the tea. Continue cooking 2 minutes. Add the milk and stir in the butter. Continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the honey and stir. The mixture should be a warm amber brown.
Put the mixture on the popcorn and stir to coat. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes stirring every five.
Remove and let cool. Enjoy with a hot cuppa!