So we (fearless Admin and I) got to thinking… what if we compared all three of Patrick Malahide’s clergymen roles? What would that look like? Maybe… something like this? A joint post! 😉 (Video clips are courtesy of Admin, screengrabs courtesy of me.)
The Reverend J.G. Keach
(“A Month in the Country“, 1987)
RF: My best guess is mid- to late thirties.
AS: Late thirties. There was a bit of fuss made about him being older than Alice but he didn’t really seem that much older than Birkin.
RF: Uptight. Way uptight. Cool to cold. Stern and forbidding. Surprising amounts of emotion under the surface. Get in the way of his fabric fund at your own peril. We never do find out what “J.G.” stands for. A somewhat out-of-place transplant to his Yorkshire village.
AS: This guy gives the worst welcomes ever. He could have easily allowed Birkin to stay in his huge empty house, with all its huge empty rooms but, nope. He does have an oddly honest streak. He had no qualms letting Birkin know he didn’t approve of what he was doing and that he was convinced the revealed painting would distract from the service.
RF: Yeah, not the welcoming sort. I think we were meant to contrast him with the Ellerbecks, who were a bit too welcoming, though at least they fed Birkin hot dinners. Keach could’ve put Birkin up in one of his rooms and never have known he was there!
AS: The Ellerbecks are a bit much — a *little* would go a long with them, but they don’t give a little 🙂 I wonder if they attempted to reach out to Moon at all…I can’t recall if that was mentioned or not. I don’t think Keach even knew Moon was there, and Mrs. Keach didn’t have much to do with him either.
RF: That’s true, they pretty much ignored Moon. Alice mentioned him once or twice, but spent much more of her time with Birkin.
Relationship with Wife:
RF: A complete mystery. They didn’t seem to talk much, save when they went to market, but they must’ve found a few things to talk about at some point in time or she wouldn’t have married him, even though she’s about half his age. Maybe his violin-playing won her over? She might be a bit happier if they had more furniture. And maybe a kitten. Children seem pretty much out of the question.
AS: I agree completely about it being a mystery. She was obviously lonely and bored. They had that awkward moment in the huge empty house. Of course, we don’t know how much of that was being exacerbated by Birkin’s presence. She seemed attracted to Birkin, but that in itself doesn’t mean she wasn’t also attracted to Keach. But, we were seeing it all through Birkin’s eyes, and it is difficult to tell how reliable a narrator he is being. A mystery, indeed.
RF: Oh, hugely awkward moment! Though I confess I did love the bit where she said she’d seen the mural already! 😀 I dunno… Birkin was someone new, was obviously attracted to her, enjoyed talking to her… Maybe it was a “grass is always greener” thing, though it did seem at times like she was practically begging Birkin to get her out of there. Not something found in the book, either. The nearest I could get to figuring it out is that she maybe married him as a father figure.
AS: Yes, she did seem a bit desperate near the end there. I suppose she was hoping Birkin would make a move. Maybe I’m inclined to presume any woman with working eyes would be attracted to Keach 😛
RF: Uhhmmm… He could… use a few lessons. Not exactly a sparkling conversationalist, hence the mystery above. Not the warm and outgoing type… at all.
AS: He seemed a bit disturbed by Birkin’s stammer. Unlike Moon who immediately acknowledged and showed solidarity and sympathy. Granted, Moon also had the war experience so he understood, but Keach could have done better.
RF: Well, Moon was all over a much friendlier sort anyway, and unlike Keach, had mastered the whole eye contact thing, but yes, their WWI experiences were certainly a common bond. Keach didn’t want Birkin there in the first place and seemed to be successively more disturbed by Birkin being “defective” (his stammer) plus being indigent (having to live in the belfry). I agree, it would’ve been nice if he could’ve been more understanding about it.
AS: We also get a great, big hint about his (lack of) social skills when it is revealed that he is not on the committee concerning the painting. “An oversight, of course.” Yeah, right 😀
RF: The “oversight” line was a good one. 🙂 A lot conveyed in a very brief line. Someone got tired of Keach being obstreperous.
RF: Somewhere around an 8 or 9 out of 10, given his disillusionment with his calling and frustration with his congregation.
AS: Yeah, I’d say an 8. He seemed happy-ish with his music and he didn’t look too miserable when visiting the market. But, he was certainly let down by the villagers not fully appreciating the Church.
RF: He should’ve given some free hot dinners for the congregation! 😉
Achilles Heel and/or Personal Nemesis:
RF: His Achilles heel is his self-awareness; he actually knows why he’s discontented, and that’s his disillusionment and frustration. He feels his calling has lost its meaning and significance. He doesn’t seem to have a personal nemesis per se, though he certainly doesn’t like Birkin hanging around, nor the effect of Birkin’s presence on Alice, his wife.
AS: When he was giving the sermon, Birkin was condemning him from above for not being good and kind to him. So, while Keach definitely knows why he is miserable, he seems to have this issue he can’t get past. That issue being that he can’t exhibit the Christian compassion he spoke about in his sermon. I can see that innate hypocrisy as being a bit of Achilles heel.
RF: Good point, and it’s interesting that while he can be bluntly honest with Birkin about not wanting him there and his own disillusionment, that he can’t be honest enough to see the bigger picture as it relates to his compassion.
AS: Also when playing his violin, he agrees with his wife that he can’t hear anyone at the door. Yet, I don’t think that was the case at all. He just didn’t feel like answering the door, is how I saw it. So, even when he doesn’t know it is Birkin, he is probably unwelcoming.
RF: Definitely the violin playing. Looks good in a clerical collar.
AS: Oh, agreed 🙂 There is the spirit of an artist in there.
Possibility of Reclamation/Reformation:
RF: He might be happier if he got out of the revving business and maybe became a professional violinist, but he’d have to take a class or two in conversational skills first, maybe from Casaubon. Or maybe salsa dancing (not from Casaubon).
AS: Totally. As a musician he might even be able to bring spiritual awakening to people in way that the formality of religion could not. I think he might have benefited from a talking to from Birkin about what it was like to be refused hospitality. Not sure how such a talking to would have gone, but he needed to hear it. Or, rather, I wanted him to hear it.
RF: It was interesting how Birkin developed the wherewithal to stand up to Keach at the end about the scaffolding. Too bad he couldn’t have done the same about Keach’s welcome/hosting.
AS: Absolutely. Perhaps a little query as to why, exactly, is Keach more fussed about a fabric fund than the well-being of a shell shocked war veteran.
What Makes Him Compelling?
RF: He has enough art in his soul and enough passion that he’s not (yet) cold all through and through. He has some true potential there.
AS: I think even Birkin found him interesting when he finally opened up his heart to him. He said Birkin was embarrassed, but I think he was more stunned as a result of actually understanding how Keach felt. Like he was saying, “Gee, I got this guy wrong.” Keach is a lot more compelling than he gives himself credit for being.
RF: It was a very surprising outburst, and let us know that Keach was more than just a cold villain. I agree, Birkin wasn’t embarrassed at all. I think Keach may have felt safer telling him all that just because Birkin was a stranger, ie. disinterested, mostly neutral – though perhaps not that neutral, given his feelings for Alice.
RF: We-ell, he’s gotta learn some conversational skills and maybe buy a stick of furniture or two, but he could be hot if he could unleash all of that passion in an interesting way…
AS: If he spoke from the heart, put his artistry into his sermons, learned a bit more about compassion towards damaged travelers, and showed an interest in Alice’s roses, he’d be very hot. As it is, he mostly just looks good and plays a nice violin 🙂
RF: Forget the roses, show an interest in Alice! 😉 Yes, letting more of his artistic side out would definitely be a good thing… and maybe even talk to Alice about all those pent-up frustrations. Or is that too much to expect?
AS: Far too much to expect 🙂 But, yeah, it would have raised the hotness quotient considerably.
The Reverend Edwin Sorleyson
(“December Bride“, 1991)
RF: I’m gonna go with mid- to late thirties again, though he certainly acts older.
AS: Agreed. He’s a bit of an old soul type, but looks quite young.
RF: Hide-bound by convention, but convinced of his intellectual superiority. Kind of a fish out of water in his wee, little Irish village.
AS: He was very frustrated by the wild folk in that village and its lack of order. Frustrated also by himself. I found it hard to get gauge on his real personality because he was so unhappy with his lot.
RF: He seems to say a lot of phrases without thinking about what they really mean, though the scene in the garden does suggest he’s more than capable of thinking about them.
AS: You’re right. There are a few moments where he almost seems to be babbling a bit. It is pretty babbling, nice words and his voice (wow). But, it comes across as stream of consciousness, actually.
Relationship with Wife:
RF: She mostly seems to be there to tell him his brilliance is unappreciated, to be dutiful, and to console him when he mopes (which is often). Oh, and to praise his gardening skills. Not sure how useful all of that is, since he mostly seems to ignore whatever she’s saying anyway. He’s also not above giving in to base desires and temptation…
AS: I felt sorry for her because she clearly adored him, worshiped him more like. And as you say, he mainly ignored her. I imagine once he got out of there (to a “tidy wee town”, perhaps), away from the frustration of temptation, their relationship might do better.
RF: It would’ve been interesting to see what happened in their new town. 😉
AS: And would it have been quite as ‘tidy’ as he was hoping?! It was probably like going from the frying pan to the fire 😀
RF: Uhhmmm… He’s quite good at talking about himself… Other topics, not so much. Sheep seem to like him… perhaps a bit too much. No, not that way!! They’re just very, uh, relaxed around him. Sort of.
AS: He did well with people who would obey him, I think. He would become so flustered whenever Sarah would contradict him or challenge him. Oh, that sheep 🙂 He might have been able to have a proper conversation with the elder brother Hamilton.
RF: 9 out of 10 throughout most of the film, with a 10 out of 10 just before he vanishes off-screen, after an ill-considered pass at an unmarried woman – not that her being married would’ve improved matters – it’s a bit complicated. Big oops.
AS: That sounds about right. At first he did seem to be gamely trying. Once he realized he couldn’t control certain people (and they actually began to challenge his very confidence), he went full-on miserable. The scene of him trudging through the water, after making the messy pass, was only missing a little black raincloud over his head!
RF: Oh, the walk of shame! 😮 I did feel so badly for him there, though he did bring it on himself, in the worst, stupidest way possible. What did he think would happen? I wonder how much of that was naïveté?
AS: Quite a lot, I think. His little gasp when he realized what he had done was telling. He was so very ashamed of himself.
Achilles Heel and/or Personal Nemesis:
RF: Himself, really. So self-absorbed he crashes and burns. And also those pesky base desires mentioned earlier.
AS: Himself and any challenge to order. Sarah and lust would have to be his nemeses.
RF: Sarah as personification of his lust? 😉 Untamed, unordered, non-church sanctioned fertility?
AS: Yep. And, apparently, she’s downright irresistible when scooping animal feed!
RF: LOL!! 😀
RF: Looks really good in a clerical collar and in his gardening wardrobe.
AS: He has a nice voice. Maybe they’d appreciate his pleasant tones and pretty speeches about nature more in a little, orderly town.
RF: Agreed, he did have a nice voice and wonderful, lilting accent.
Possibility of Reclamation/Reformation:
RF: Doubtful, though by the end he and his wife have managed to raise a son who doesn’t seem quite as self-absorbed as his father. Maybe if he was able to look outside himself a bit? Or maybe he could make a good potato farmer. Needs to stay away from women with odd ideas about their living arrangements.
AS: Getting into somewhere more conventional might help. I think he’d still want to be in charge though, and finding someplace more suited for him isn’t really the same as reformation, I suppose.
What Makes Him Compelling?
RF: He’s kind of a frustrating character because he’s so miserable. If one could only shake some sense into him…
AS: It must be the misery itself that makes him compelling. I mean, its worked for Morrissey so why not Sorleyson 😀
RF: Yeah, but emo is only interesting for so long… 😉
RF: Needs to be less self-absorbed for true hotness, but has definite potential if he could get rid of the misery. Looks great in vest and shirtsleeves, and likewise in top hat and clerical collar.
AS: Yes, lose the self-absorption. One thing about him, he doesn’t seem to freak out about getting dirty or wet or whatever. I mean, he handled the lamb with aplomb. Could you imagine that same man getting a bit more charitable and doing some manual labor to help the least fortunate in the community? That might fit more in with possibility for reformation though.
RF: OMG, the lamb! 😀 I still wonder if that was “ad libbed”, as it were. 😉 Yeah, if he also tried to get to know his congregation better on a more personal level, he might find himself having a somewhat easier time of it.
The Reverend Edward Casaubon
RF: Mid-forties (yes, I cheated and read the book) but seems older.
AS: He does seem like he’s supposed to older.
RF: Hasn’t had his nose out of a book for decades and is not used to dealing with real people. Prematurely aged by his studies. A bit of a monomaniac on his chosen topics, and snobbish about where he gets his information from. Fearful and distrustful of change, and also of any challenge to his intellect. Does behave honourably towards his cousin’s family when they’re in need.
AS: He seems very shy, but super prickly at the same time. Frankly, I really like him. Even his flaws aren’t *that* bad. I understand Dorothea and her frustration with him, but I still find myself sympathizing with him. It isn’t really his fault that she wants to push him to be great.
RF: Oh, the bit where he was having his little heart-to-heart with Dorothea for the first time and was so astonished she was actually paying attention to him was so good. I like him too, despite all of the shyness and awkwardness, or maybe even because of them.
Relationship with Wife:
RF: Is really new to this whole “talking to girls” thing, especially when it isn’t about his pet topics, let alone the “being married” thing. And forget normal icky relationship stuff, like physical displays of affection, which seem to freak him out. Not helped at all by the fact Dorothea’s half his age, though to give her credit, one of her reasons for marrying him was to help him in his studies and she’s pretty much the perfect woman for him. Nonetheless, he does try to do right by her – for his definition of “right”.
AS: Poor Dorothea. I think she is physically, as well as intellectually, attracted to him, but his health issues get in the way there. But, as far as being a good husband goes, he does try…sort of. I have a high level of forgiveness for him because he is genuinely a man who does not know any better, so when he is a total pill towards her, say when she’s trying to push him to go ahead and publish some of his work, I still can’t dislike him.
RF: I was inclined to be sympathetic too, because let’s face it, he’s spent forty-five years of his life not having had any really close personal relationships (his mother might be an exception; he spoke quite touchingly and gently about her). He has no idea what to do, though he does have vague ideas how he should feel, and more detailed ideas about what Dorothea as a wife should be like. He’s just so unequipped for the whole thing.
AS: I also liked the part when he spoke about his mother. What is weird about that bit is that it reminds you that Edward was once a little boy. For some reason, that is absurdly difficult to imagine.
RF: Trying to imagine a prepubescent Edward Casaubon, can’t do it! Okay, maybe he’d be the bookish lad curled up with a tome in a window seat, instead of out playing cricket. 😉
RF: He’s a better conversationalist compared to the previous two (which shows how far gone they are), displays very occasional signs of a sense of humour (re: Dorothea’s Uncle Brooke), and can be incredibly (and amusingly) scathing (re: Will Ladislaw). However, he’s completely unable to unbend enough to talk to Dorothea when it really matters. Is most comfortable discussing obscure mythologies and deities.
AS: He’s shy at times, but able to converse and share his thoughts in a normal social setting. And, unlike the previous two fellows, his shyness is actually part of his charm. His nervousness mingled with delight when showing Dorothea and her family his home is sweet. When he receives compliments, he is happy, but also looks a little bashful. He really does try his best and sometimes genuinely succeeds 🙂
RF: I love the scene where he’s showing her around the house. 🙂 I agree, he’s quite charming when being shy – I also love the bit where he’s watching out the window for their arrival, with such huge nervous anticipation. If he’d lived longer and gotten more practice with the whole interpersonal thing, it could’ve been a happier marriage indeed. In normal conversation, I agree that he could be quite eloquent (if just a bit esoteric).
AS: The window scene was utterly adorable, with just a slight dash of creepy 😀 He was a bit boyish there. Maybe that gives some insight as to what he might have been like as a child?
RF: Much of it is self-inflicted, but it’s probably an 8 out of 10, going up to 10 when he’s told he might be dying, thinks he may not finish The Key to All Mythologies, and believes that his wife is already set on his (younger, more handsome, personable, artistic) cousin as a replacement.
AS: Yes, it is the whole facing mortality issue that *really* sends him over the misery edge. He might actually be at an 11 at that point! The scene where is standing by the river, contemplating his mortality conveys so much misery, frustration, regret, and fear. It is actually one of the most beautifully shot (as well as acted) scenes I’ve ever seen. The misery is palpable.
RF: I agree, and it’s exacerbated by the fact he thinks Dorothea may have betrayed him, or at the very least, hasn’t been honest with him (all Lydgate’s fault, damn him!), but she’s pretty much the only one he can turn to, and he has to trust someone with finishing his (white elephant of a) book. He’s at his most extreme point there, and it’s so well played by Malahide.
Achilles Heel and/or Personal Nemesis:
RF: Will Ladislaw, said younger cousin, who dared to offer him advice on The Key to All Mythologies and who keeps hanging around his wife and giving her dangerous ideas and asking for money!! Why doesn’t he get a job somewhere far, far away?? And get a haircut!! Did I mention Casaubon sometimes has an extremely short temper? And is just a wee bit insecure about his life’s work?
AS: Ladislaw indeed. I was a *bit* happier with Will when he confides in Dorothea and expresses sincere pity about some of Casaubon’s problems. If he’d listened to Will in the first place, maybe he would have gotten somewhere with his writing. But, that is where his stubbornness, mingled with heaping loads of insecurity comes into play. I think, actually, he and Will could have genuinely loved one another if he could only listen and take advice. Of course, Will seems to have inherited that stubborn gene too, so he gets to be the nemesis.
RF: Will gave Dorothea a piece of insight she badly needed, but at the same time, I can’t see Casaubon listening to that sort of advice with equanimity, no matter who it came from. As you say, he’s just too stubborn and insecure, and he’d probably suspect ulterior motives from Will.
RF: Oh, if only Casaubon could’ve made up his mind about his notebooks sooner. He actually had a lot of energy and drive when he was going through them, and it was kinda cute to see! Also looks really good in clergyman’s clothes and his vampiric cloak.
AS: It was really cute 🙂 What a pity he wore Dorothea out (or bored her to tears), because it was lovely seeing him so buoyant 🙂 The (bashful) delight he displays when Dorothea first pays him compliments is also charming. Deep down, there is a sweet, energetic, intelligent soul, but it keeps getting hidden by insecurity.
RF: I also liked how sweet he was (relatively speaking) when he found that she’d waited up most of the night for him. 🙂 Of course, there was some melancholy mixed with it, too.
AS: He was genuinely touched and, yes, he felt a bit chastened. Poor Casuabon was full of those bittersweet moments 🙁
Possibility of Reclamation/Reformation:
RF: Frustratingly close, if only he could unbend a bit to Dorothea, talk to her, and maybe get a handle on all of that icky relationship stuff! Study about it if necessary (and it is)! And also realize that she’s not just marking time ’til he dies and she can give his fortune to Will Ladislaw. He might also need to realize that The Key to All Mythologies is a giant time sink, or at least that he should check out newer research. And talk to Dorothea about medical diagnoses!
AS: If he could have lived just a little bit longer, it might have happened 🙁
What Makes Him Compelling?
RF: He does show fleeting tenderness towards Dorothea, recognizes her potential for learning, and there are hints of what could’ve been a happy marriage despite the age difference. He also has a wonderfully dry, acerbic wit.
AS: The shyness makes him compelling too. You know there is a lot more too him, but you just have to dig down a bit to get to it. Not that that is easy to do 😛
RF: He could be really hot if he took his nose out of his books once in a while and managed to take a trip somewhere romantic without ditching his bride for a library! And don’t bore her to death about art! Updating his wardrobe might not go amiss, either.
AS: I like his wardrobe 🙂 A haircut, though, wouldn’t go amiss! Being ditched for a library is pretty unforgivable, isn’t it? I can kind of appreciate his excitement at being in such close proximity to a totally rad library, but he really needs to include her. Plus, he’s aware that she and Will are getting along (during his Thomas Aquinas moment). Badly played, Casaubon, badly played. You can be a lot hotter than that!
RF: Ditched for a library in the city of Romance! Tsk tsk tsk. You’d think he might’ve been relieved that Will was around to entertain her, but neeeeuuuwww. 😉 Yep, someone should’ve explained to him what “honeymoon” meant. He can do better!
RF: I have to say Casaubon is my favourite. For one thing, he was my first glimpse of Patrick Malahide, leading me to seek out his other roles, and I couldn’t believe how different he was with each character (still can’t 😉 ). I went on to seek out George Eliot’s novel as well. I found Casaubon completely fascinating despite his prickliness and flaws; I could completely sympathize with his fears and insecurities, and his shyness with Dorothea and enthusiasm about his pet topics just made him more appealing. He does behave badly towards Dorothea, but it’s chiefly due to an inability for them to communicate on deeper levels, as well as his fears. I did want to grab him and shake him at times, and tell him to just talk to her! I think she would’ve understood. He was a mess of contradictions, but he had so much potential. And of course, a large part of the credit towards his appeal has to go to Patrick Malahide’s portrayal, which was wonderfully nuanced and sensitive. He made me feel for Casaubon.
AS: I also have to go with Casaubon. He really does try at times, even though it is hard for him. He also has several moments that exhibit genuine charm and sweetness. His shortcomings all seem very plausible too. There are loads of Casaubons out there; people who have ambitions and goals, but are cut short by insecurity and an inability to step out of their comfort zones. He also gets extra sympathy because some of his problems are, IMO, extremely easy to solve. If he would just talk to Dorothea (and perhaps to Cousin Will for that matter) he would find loads of love and emotional support. But, he can’t. It is shyness and insecurity that hinder him, and you can’t really condemn him for having problems that are so human. Even his flashes of prickliness and intellectual superiority are forgivable because you can understand why someone like him would be that way. He isn’t used to be second guessed, so he might see being second guessed as betrayal. And betrayal is something that obviously terrifies him, as exhibited by the stipulations in his will; which could have been averted by talking to people. Now combine all that with his serious health problems, and you have someone who really should illicit nothing but sympathy.