Hello! I am so sorry if you have already been asked about this, but I was wondering what your thoughts were about the Newland Archer x Countess Olenska romance?
First of all, thank you very much for your question. There Will Be Blood and The Age of Innocence are two of DDL films that I think about the most, probably because the characters are so well-written. But maybe because I tend to give long answer, I rarely got any ask me about them.
Theirs is a forbidden love because it existed in the rigid, repressive world of upper-class New York in the 1870’s. And it’s tragic. So tragic to the point I can’t watch or read it without crying. Even then, I’m having a hard time trying to explain why it’s so sad. It just is!
A few years ago I wrote that I hate Newland Archer. I thought he is a jerk, a wuss and a coward. I still don’t like him but my view on him has softened. As time changes, I started to see the world differently. There are some norms we are not allowed to go against. It’s not fair to ask Newland to fight the societal order knowing the consequences. And I’m not even convinced they’ll be happy if they ended up together. Remember Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina?
But sometimes, I do wonder if Newland really loves Ellen or just the idea of her. Countess Olenska represents a dream of the unconventional, more passionate life for which he will never sacrifice everything. For him, actually doing the unconventional is beyond the bounds of possibility. Newland is constantly going off into daydreams, visualizing romantic scenarios with Ellen that do not come to pass.
Ellen on the other hand, is a realist. She is a free spirit who helps Newland see beyond narrow New York society. Ellen knows that they cannot live a life outside of convention without hurting others.
“Is there anywhere we can be happy behind the backs of people who trust us?”
I found myself more sympathizing with Newland Archer in the movie than in the book. DDL’s performance is so phenomenal that the pain of his predicament becomes more than visual, it becomes visceral. At times, I can almost see his heart bleeding after being brutally stabbed by the whole society.
This scene was so brutal. He barely shows any emotion on his face yet I could hear his heart ripped to shreds.
But I think Ellen suffers as much as Newland from their impossible relationship. She is willing to wait for uncertainty so long as they can love each other at a distance.
“- This is not a life for you.
- It is, as long as it’s part of yours.”
Newland’s love for Ellen keeps him in chase. He follows her to Skuytercliff, then Boston, almost to Washington, and finally deciding to follow her to Europe. But in the end, Newland Archer finds that the only place for their love is in his memories.
“Whenever he thought of Ellen Olenska, it had been abstractly, serenely, like an imaginary loved one in a book or picture. She had become the complete vision of all that he had missed.”
This movie quite simply has the finest ending of any movie I have ever seen. I wish I realized it sooner…