29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iris--a heart-rending document on a life in crisis!
Iris is one of those few films that prove the extent to which cinema can affect you emotionally. A memoir of a literary academic who gets coiled up by Alzheimer's later in life, this simple film becomes something so devastatingly beautiful and ultimately unforgettable that its hard to resist repeated viewings. The credit for uplifting it to such Everest-ian heights goes...
Published on 23 Aug 2004 by coronaurora
3.0 out of 5 stars Good film, inadequate editing
This film goes on far, far too long. Half way through my partner and me both had had enough. It's brilliantly made and acted, but there is only so much depression any one person can take. If a third to a half of this had been cut, it would have turned from a good to a truly classic film. Opportunity missed.
Published 2 months ago by Enthusiast
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iris--a heart-rending document on a life in crisis!,
Iris is one of those few films that prove the extent to which cinema can affect you emotionally. A memoir of a literary academic who gets coiled up by Alzheimer's later in life, this simple film becomes something so devastatingly beautiful and ultimately unforgettable that its hard to resist repeated viewings. The credit for uplifting it to such Everest-ian heights goes to the performances by the lead actors and the sympathy in the film's tone.
Of the performances, Kate Winslet is radiance and intelligence personified and is absolutely believable as the gifted young author that Iris Murdoch was. Hers, incidentally is the most unsympathetic and verbose character-stretch, what with her wolfish appetite for men and words, but Winslet's luminous bare-all interpretaton has a feverish, unpretentious energy to it that makes it so compulsively watchable.
Hugh Bonneville as the younger Bayley [Murdoch's fiancee and later, her husband] hasn't got the best lines, but makes sure that his stammer makes every line he utters, momentous.
But of course, Iris is a freewheeling showcase of Judi Dench's intelligence whose performance as the Alzheimer-stricken Murdoch is so heart-felt and sincere, that you can almost touch her. Having worked with patients of Alzheimer's myself, I was absolutely shocked as to how much Judi's performance [right from her body language and her slow but definite detachment from the real world] struck home. Be it the last scene where she swings in the elderly home corridor or her reactions to Blair's speech on television or even the way she reacts when her last book is out-- each of those scenes will forever haunt me as some of the most honest moments I have encountered on screen.
Jim Broadbent is just as luminous as Dench and the scenes where he searches madly for Judi as she suddenly disappears or even his painful, frustrated outbursts are examples of what fine acting is all about. His chemistry with Dench [notice the scene where Iris tugs onto the tail of his sweater] is genuine and is what makes the film's message ring long after its over.
The script's brilliant, very taut and not even a single minute of the 86 mins running time is wasted in obscure sub-plots. The background music's suitably soothing and therapeutic complementing the film's mellowed tone and the way in which the build up of Murdoch's illness comes alive on screen [the very first scenes where she struggles with simple words to the scene where she suddenly forgets the thread while answering a question on a TV interview were hair-raising] as well as the way this tension is balanced with the screenplay meshing in her radiant youthful days all through... makes for a very thoughtful viewing.
The ironies between the two phases of Iris' life jolt you [esp. her quotes like "We have encountered all forms of goodness in its purest form before we were born, which is why we are drawn to it, unconsciously all the time" and "There is only one freedom of any importance, freedom of the mind"] but ultimately, the film's message about how exhausting a mental illness could be [both for the sufferer and the people around him/her] and how strong can a relationship be, is both grounding and fascinating.
It made me appreciate my existence all the more... hope it does something similar for all those who decide to watch it.
PS: The DVD, however, doesn't sport any worthwile extras which is quite disappointing for a film so critically acclaimed [atleast a behind-the-scenes featurette would have done some good] and other than a short commentary on Alzheimer's, the extras are as good as nonexistent.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There is only one freedom that matters--that of the mind.",
When author/philosopher Iris Murdoch utters these words, she has no way of knowing that Alzheimer's disease will soon rob her of that freedom, leaving her the frustrated shell of who and what she was. Author of twenty-six books and winner of both the Whitbread and the Booker Prizes, Iris, at the end of her life, was, according to her husband, like "A very nice three-year-old child." The love story of Iris Murdoch, a free-spirited, passionate lover of arts and ideas, and John Bayley, the shy, introverted man who was her anchor in life, dominates this film, celebrating her life, even as Alzheimer's disease robs it of its meaning.
Directed by Richard Eyre, who converted John Bayley's book, A Memoir and Elegy for Iris, into the screenplay, the film honors Iris, John Bayley, and the love that survived even Alzheimer's disease. Judi Dench not only looks like Iris Murdoch, but also endows her with fierce independence, a curiosity about the meaning of life, and a strong will, characteristics which served Iris well, even in her decline. Jim Broadbent, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, shows his love for her at the same time that he becomes enormously frustrated at his helplessness in dealing with her decline.
Alternating between present and past, director Eyre develops innumerable visual parallels, showing Murdoch as a wild young girl (passionately played by Kate Winslett), uninhibitedly exploring every aspect of life, with Dench repeating similar scenes (such as the swimming scenes) late in life. The young John Bayley (Hugh Bonneville) plays his role so close in style to Broadbent that except for the obvious age differences, they could well be the same person, both blushing on cue. These four brilliant actors are completely successful in merging time frames to create two complete characters.
The obvious symbolism and deliberate parallels between the early and late lives of Iris and John Bayley will not escape any viewer, making the sad changes in Iris's mind even more agonizing to watch, particularly for anyone who has faced Alzheimer's with a loved one. As Iris herself observes, "I feel as if I'm sailing into darkness." Beautifully filmed by Roger Pratt, the exteriors, including the water scenes, show the vastness of the world that Iris loved to explore, while the interiors show her claustrophobic confinement and the robbing of her soul. Not an easy film to watch, it is nevertheless a brilliant achievement celebrating the endurance of love, even in the face of Alzheimer's disease. Mary Whipple
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a class of its own.,
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This review is from: Iris [DVD] (DVD)
The unravelling of Iris Murdock's dementia is both difficult and heart-rending to watch. The blind tenderness of her husband's devotion is matched by Judi Dench's portrayal of a transformation from a profoundly intellectual academic to a child-like innocent. Judi Dench doesn't play the part she IS the part. This disturbing theme is lightened to some extent by the flash-backs to University days and more normal student activities.
I have watched the DVD several times, and recommend it as a superb example of quality and professionalism.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The destruction of a gifted mind by Alzheimer's disease,
"Iris" was a most disturbing film for me to watch, although I know exactly why it affected me so. Ever since I learned that H. L. Mencken spent the final years of his life incapacitated by a stroke that made it impossible for him to read and write (or to remember nouns), the idea of losing my mental faculties has been pretty much the worst of all possible fates for me. Similar ground is covered in "Iris," as the novelist Iris Murdoch has her mind, her marriage, and her life destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. Of course the film makes me uncomfortable; it should make anybody uncomfortable to watch a human being's life come undone like this.
The screenplay by Richard Eyre and Charles Wood, based on the books "Iris: A Memory" and "Elegy for Iris" by her husband John Bayley, attempts to convey cinematically what has been lost. Consequently we cut back and forth between the present, as John (Jim Broadbent) struggles to take care of his beloved Iris (Judi Dench), and disjointed scenes from the past, as young John (Hugh Bonneville) and Iris (Kate Winslet) meet and fall in love. Sometimes they are brief glimpses, other times extended scenes, combining to provide a disjointed pictures of these two lives.
I was surprised that I do not especially remember Iris Murdoch as a novelist; I know that I have never read any of her books. So my sense of what a great mind was lost is based entirely on what we see of Iris at the top of her game in the film. Clearly "Iris" is a film that presents these lives in fragments and pieces. We never fully understand why Iris decides to marry Jim; it must have been a superb meeting of the minds, but that is not the sense we get from the film where Jim is pretty much an amiable fuddy duddy. "Iris" is about the end and the beginning of a relationship, with a giant gap in the middle. Still, this film is about the growing gaps that appeared in the lives of this couple, so it is hard to say such an approach is unjustified. Again, if "Iris" is an unsettling film, then we have to remember that it should be.
The acting by the four principles is first rate, although I want to make special mention of Hugh Bonneville because he was the only one of the quartet not to receive an Oscar nomination. Bonneville does as fine of a creating a younger Broadbent as Kate Winslet does a younger Judi Dench, but apparently that is a thankless job.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart wrenching performances,
This review is from: Iris [DVD] (DVD)
All the actors, Judi Dench , Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent are excellent in the main roles in this portrayal of Iris Murdoch's slide into the abyss when she is affected by Altzheimers Disease and the effect it had on her husband and family. It gives a touching and accurate picture of the horrors of this indiscriminate affliction and is especially poignant for those who have experienced it in their family. My father had Altzheimers Disease and although he lived until he was nearly 93 he had actually "died" well before his 90th birthday, as the person we knew had gradually faded away until at the end he was just a shell, the only consolation was that, even at the end ,he knew who my mother was (but he'd forgotten eveyone else). This extraordinary film demonstrates what happens to most Altzheimers sufferers and shows that love and a caring attitude can go a long way in helping those afflicted to not be frightened by what can be a long illness.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't forget your hankies!,
Judi Dench is, as expected, absolutely captivating as the late Iris Murdoch. Her portrayal of this "free spirit" who eventually becomes a prisoner of Alzheimer's is so emotionally charged you won't be able to take your eyes from her.
Jim Broadbent, after his success in Moulin Rouge, plays John Bayley in such a touching way that I spent the entire film just wanting to hug him.
Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville are the quintessential younger "versions". Winslet captures perfectly the headstrong and attractiveness of a young Iris, while Bonneville continues and complements Broadbent's Bayley.
The key to this film is subtlety. From the almost imperceptible soundtrack (as it should be) to the slow revelation of relationships, this film will run the gamut of your emotions before you even realise how drawn in you are.
Most of all, this is a moving story of love, the pain of Alzheimers, and the strength of human relationships. I couldn't have suppressed my laughter or tears, and I'm glad I didn't.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fragmented Yet Celebrated,
The cruelty of a degenerative neurological disorder such as Alzheimer's Disease is enormous no matter who the victim is; but how much more devastating it seems when the sufferer is an acclaimed writer and thinker - arguably the most well known British philosopher-novelist of her era.
Dame Iris Murdoch, whose career in the arts and academic life spawned some 26 works of literary fiction and several noted philosophical works, died in 1999 in an Oxford nursing home after four years in the grip of the illness.
This film, starring Dame Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent is based upon two volumes of memoirs by Murdoch's husband, retired Oxford professor John Bayley.
The books count alongside Deric Longden's in their acute yet affectionate recounting of a loved one's suffering, and this movie adaptation of them is probably one of the best examples of the book-to-film genre I have seen.
Admittedly there are occasions where for the sake of art (or convenience?) slight alterations are seemingly made in this film version, but I do not feel these departures are especially significant.
For much of the time we are permitted to peer clearly into the life of a major figure - responsible for bringing complex philosophical issues to the person in the street as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus did across the Channel.
Yet what we have is no dry existentialist/absurdist monologue in which hell is other people, but a joyous celebration of what it means to love and be human - even under the most challenging conditions.
Dame Judi Dench's clipped yet gentle recreation of the older Iris as lecturer and writer, contrasts violently with her startling portrayal of the barely coherent Alzheimer's sufferer.
Likewise Kate Winslet as the strictly polygamous and ambivalent young academic who knew her own mind offsets any idea that Murdoch was as staid and bourgeois as some of her characters - and some might say her eventual sympathies with English Conservatism - might suggest.
Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville (who recently portrayed poet Philip Larkin in a movie as relevant, if not as lavish or apparently "documentary" as this one) also deserve praise for their work in the roles of the older and younger John Bayley.
This film, which I know I am reviewing very belatedly, is quite simply one of the best I have seen in some time.
Over and above the awareness it has brought regarding the effects of Alzheimer's Disease, it deserves to survive as a human document as rewarding and complex as anything its subject wrote.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Mind,
The premise of "Iris" is simple enough, but the history of Iris Murdoch and her long time lover John Bayley is a thing of fascination. Told through a series of flashbacks comparing the slowly ailing Iris to the younger courtship years of writers Iris and John Bayley, it's a masterpiece of editing. Iris is no sweet angel of the literary world, but a confrontative liberal progressive willing to explore every part of life she can indulge in. This proves a quandary for the young John Bayley (played by an amazing look-alike named Hugh Bonneville), whose is rather shy, but hopelessly in love with Iris. The acting is beyond superb with Kate Winslet as the young Murdoch.
Admittedly, there are the weepy moments when Iris adamantly vainly refuses to give in to this disease. There are the struggles with herself and her lover. The literary metaphors and ironies are abundant ("There is only one freedom of any importance, freedom of the mind") and the visual ones are somewhat cliché. Regardless, this is a fascinating work of acting by some incredible talents of our age. It's not always upbeat, but it makes you appreciate what you have and how little it takes to be happy.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly moving,
The BBC-funded film 'Iris' is based on John Bayley's powerful accounts of his life with Iris Murdoch. Murdoch (1919-1999) was one of the most brilliant intellectuals of her time. Both a novelist and philosopher, she graduated from Oxford in 1942, followed by a writing career that was to be cut short by the onset of Alzheimer's in 1994. It is the last years of her life, and her struggle with dementia, that is the film's (main) concern. A broader view of her life is provided by cuts between her younger years and the present in which the film is largely set. The performances are the kind you dream about but rarely see- Kate Winslet's sensitive, vibrant portrayal of the young Iris only serves to illustrate more clearly the tragedy of her later life- a person who was once one of the most respected academics of her time, whose creativity is ultimately denied her, that suffering conveyed brilliantly by Judi Dench. Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent are the younger and older John Bayley respectively. Jim Broadbent, superb as Iris' companion in her last years, represents his character in such a way that we sympathise with his anguish as much as we do with that of Iris herself.
In addition to impeccable performances and perceptive direction on the part of Richard Eyre, Joshua Bell on the violin lends the richness of the images an added depth.
'Iris' is not just a deeply intelligent examination of the title character's suffering, but a text which presents us with a unique approach to an emotive social issue which does not confine itself to the context of cinema.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love Can Conquer All,
This review is from: Iris [DVD] (DVD)
"The absolute yearning of one human body for another particular body and its indifference to substitutes is one of life's major mysteries." Iris Murdock
I love the writing of Iris Murdock and her quotes even more so. The film about her life and her slip into oblivion is a marvelous feat. How could a book written by her husband, John Bayle be so provocative and fascinating? It is the four actors who play Iris and John in their 43 year marriage that makes this film a true treasure. Iris was born of Irish parents and moved to London as a small child. She was an intelligent, out spoken young woman and took up Literature at Oxford. It was during this time that she met John. Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville play the young couple. A more two unlikely pair. Iris outgoing, outspoken and with many friends. John introverted, someone who stuttered with few friends. But fall in love they did- both highly intelligent- John was a literature professor and Iris wrote books- wonderful books that gained her fame and she became a Dame of the Empire. They settled into their lives with their writings and their friends.
As Iris approached the age of 55 she noted forgetfulness, unable to remember a word here and there. At this age, Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent played their aging counterparts. Iris was examined and in the film no diagnosis was spoken, but we know it is Alzheimer. Judi Dench plays an amazing Iris during this period. Her every glance and facial expression give us the feel of one who is slipping away. It is Jim Broadbent as John who is amazing. As a caretaker he exhibits the grace of one who loves, but also the lethargy and extreme fatigue of caring for someone who is active but must be watched at all times. He is in a time and place of his own, but he insists upon caring for Iris by himself. As time goes on we see him slip into forgetfulness himself, until he realizes he must do something.
An amazing film, difficult to view at times if you have someone who is slipping away. But for all of us who love someone and for those of us who care, we view this film as a devoted husband giving his loved wife the tribute she deserves.
Recommended. prisrob 06-07-13
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Iris [DVD] by Jedi Dench (DVD - 2011)