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Posts Tagged ‘Vita Sackville-West’

Members of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain will spend Valentine’s Day with Virginia Woolf reading love letters between members of the Bloomsbury Group aloud.

Letters will include those between Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.

The meeting and reading of romantic letters will take place via Zoom on Sunday, Feb. 14, at 8 p.m. GMT or 3 p.m. EST. Members of the VWSGB can register by emailing Marielle O’Neill at marielleoneill88@hotmail.com.

If you are not a member of the group, find out how you can join.

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From the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain comes these resources: links to two short videos of an exchange of letters between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. Both were recorded for Amnesty International and LGBTI+.

  • Vita’s letter to Virginia, read by Jodie Comer
  • Virginia letter replying to Vita, read by Nicola Coughlan

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Here is a roundup of music and movie news of interest to followers of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group.

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“Vita and Virginia,” the much-anticipated Chanya Button film about the love affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West is playing in London, and I saw it yesterday.

It has opened to mixed reviews. But if you are a fan of Virginia Woolf — as I obviously am — it is a must-see.

Scenery, sets, and superb fashion

As Sarah Hall put it in a message to VWoolf ListServ, “In films or plays about real people you get used to the departures from reality, so I made a determined effort to ignore these and enjoyed the scenery and the costumes and, frankly, the well-recreated sets (all except Knole, which is gloriously real).”

I agree. The sets look wonderfully authentic. The scenes that take place at Charleston look like Charleston, down to the painted doorways and decorated mantelpieces. The room where the Hogarth Press was housed looks just as I imagined it — although Stuart Clarke of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain said a press such as the Woolfs owned would not have sounded like the one in the film. But film needs sound, so the producers added the clanking of machinery as the pages of Jacob’s Room (1922) are shown coming off the press.

The costumes are fabulous — although I did wonder if Vita’s actual wardrobe was as glamorous as the film portrayed. But movies are expected to be a treat for the eyes, and this one succeeded at that, with the sets, the scenery, and the costumes.

The words don’t fail but the pacing plods

Since it was based on the eponymous play by Eileen Atkins, which was based on the letters that Vita and Virginia wrote each other, I also appreciated hearing the words of those two writers as much of the film’s dialogue.

But where the words succeed, the pacing plods. Even for a Woolf lover, the film is slow.

And there are a number of scenes — from the party scene where one first encounters Virginia to the love scenes in Vita’s bed — where I shook my head in disbelief. No, Virginia would not have danced around like a Grateful Dead groupie at any party, I thought. And no, I thought, Virginia never experienced sexual fulfillment via Vita. Did she?

Sarah Hall also had this criticism, “What didn’t make dramatic sense is to have Vita’s mother in residence at Knole instead of her father (who doesn’t appear and isn’t even mentioned). If Lionel is meant to be prematurely deceased, why hasn’t Knole been bestowed on a male heir?”

The casting is questionable

However, the casting may be my main complaint. After two casting changes for the role of Virginia, the film stars Gemma Arterton as Vita and Elizabeth Debicki as Virginia. Neither really works. In my opinion, Arterton is too cute and feminine to play the outdoorsy Vita. Debicki is absolutely too tall; she towers over the petite Arterton in too many scenes, which put me off.

Peter Ferdinando works well as Leonard and portrays him as a sympathetic character, which suits me. But Adam Gilles is wrong on every count as Duncan Grant. I had to wonder why they didn’t cast the beautiful James Norton, who made the perfect Duncan in Life in Squares.

Despite complaints, I recommend the film to anyone who cares about Virginia Woolf, Vita, and the Bloomsbury group. Apparently, many agree. On its opening weekend, July 4-7, the film made £49,223 showing in 63 cinemas.

The film opens in the U.S. in October.

 

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Virginia and Vita. Virginia and Leonard. Vanessa and Roger. Vanessa and Duncan. All four of those Bloomsbury couples are included in the exhibit “Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde” at The Barbican Art Gallery in London through Jan. 27, 2019.

According to promoters:

Modern Couples explores creative relationships, across painting, literature, sculpture, photography and design. Meet the artist couples that forged new ways of making art and of living and loving, from Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera, Emilie Flöge & Gustav Klimt to Virginia Woolf & Vita Sackville-West.

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