The Duchess Saul Dibb

The Duchess Saul Dibb
Far less romanticized and sweeping than most corset dramas of the Jane Austen variety, The Duchess is interesting for its simultaneously detached and passionate "realist" approach to finding breathing room within a confined and stifling system of expectation and obligation. Indeed, much ado is made about freedom, with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, acting as an outspoken liberal who supported the American and French Revolutions, claiming that partial freedom and compromise does not freedom make, which stands as a powerful allegory, both in reality and in the text of the film, for her frustrating trials and tribulations. The Duchess is far better than most critics have let on, smartly examining the necessary modifications one must make to their ideological framework in order to balance the ideal with the undesirable while embracing the practical, and some might say tragic, outcome of the entire ordeal. Arranged to marry the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) at the tender age of 16 by her mother, Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling), Georgiana (Keira Knightley) exists solely to create a male heir in order for the Duke to fulfil his social obligations and maintain his name. Early on, Georgiana learns of her husband's extra-marital affairs, which are less upsetting to her than the fact that he is perhaps the least interesting person alive. While unimpressed with her place in life, Georgiana makes due, expressing herself through fashion and sparking up a friendship with the sexually liberated Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell), until she learns that the Duke is dipping his pen in the one inkwell that Georgiana considered her own as a result of her inability to conceive a male heir. The DVD includes a thorough making of featurette titled "How Far She Went," which provides additional insights on the Duchess of Devonshire and her many struggles, along with location shooting, actor interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Also included is a brief analysis of Georgiana's actual correspondence, as edited and maintained by Bess Foster, the later Duchess of Devonshire. Lastly, a costume diary is included, which elaborates further on the creation of the many impressive costumes and overall designs used in the production. (Paramount)