Created by: Elegy for Iris by John Bayley
Directed by: Richard Eyre
Written by: Richard Eyre, Charles Wood
Produced by: Robert Fox, Scott Rudin
Other cast: Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Bonneville
Release date: December 14, 2001
Genre: Drama, Biography
Running time: 90 minutes
This movie is based on the life of revered British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch Dame Judi Dench), is a story of unlikely yet enduring love. As a young academic, teaching philosophy at Oxford, Murdoch (Kate Winslet) meets and eventually falls in love with fellow professor John Bayley (Hugh Bonneville), a man whose awkwardness seems in stark opposition to the spirited self-confidence of his future wife. The story unfolds as snippets of time, seen through older Bayley's (Jim Broadbent's) eyes. He recalls their first encounter over forty years ago, activities they enjoyed doing together, and Iris' charismatic and individualistic personality. These images portray Murdoch as a vibrant young woman with great intellect and are contrasted with the novelist's later life, after the effects of Alzheimer's disease have ravaged her. Murdoch's great mind deteriorates until she is reduced to a mere vestige of her former self.
This is the second movie to have two actresses nominated for an Academy Award for playing the same role in the same movie. The first was Titanic (1997). In both movies, Kate Winslet played the younger version in the dual-nominee role.
Kate Winslet’s Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar nominated performance was the only one in the category not in a Best Picture nominee that year.
Some viewers may find it confusing that this movie episodically jumps across three time periods; their early relationship, their later relationship before the Alzheimer’s symptons start to become obvious, and the final phase once her sympton’s and condition affect their relationship and lives. This may be a deliberate creative choice to “disorientate” the audience, and/or remind them how much it has changed Iris.
Kate Winslet has appeared nude in several of her movies, but most notably in this movie, in which she plays young Iris Murdoch. Despite her willingness to act in the buff when the role calls for it, Kate isn’t exactly fond of the awkward scenes. “I hate it! Listen, make no mistake, I just get on it”, she said in an interview with V Magazine. “I just go in and say ‘Oh f*ck let’s do it’ and boom. If you complain about it or procrastinate, it’s not going to go away. It’s a profoundly bizarre thing to do. As actors you talk about it all the time. You can literally be tangled in sheets, and you turn to the other actor and say ‘What the f*ck are we doing?’ Dear Mum, at work today I had so-and-so’s left nut sack pressed against my cheek. It’s sort of unethical if you think about it in those terms.”
“ Yes, of course, there’s something fishy about describing people’s feelings. You try hard to be accurate, but as soon as you start to define such and such a feeling, language lets you down. It’s really a machine for making falsehoods. When we really speak the truth, words are insufficient. Almost everything except things like “pass the gravy” is a lie of a sort. And that being the case, I shall shut up. Oh, and… pass the gravy.”
“You know more about me than anyone. You are my world.”
“I wouldn’t say you’d had me, just yet.”