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Swithin

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

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I went up to visit some friends last weekend. We screened a few movies, including Notes on a Scandal with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. Omigod, what a downer!  I hadn't heard much about the film, although the ladies, writing, and music had been nominated for Oscars.

 

The actresses play teachers at the same school. Dench is a psychopath who is a lesbian; Blanchett is a woman with a difficult home life who has a torrid affair with a 15-year old male student.  A deeply unhealthy symbiotic relationship ensues between the two women.

 

Dench's character is obviously not a positive one; however, we need to be open to having gay characters portrayed in all lights, just as straight characters would be. Nevertheless this was a tough and disturbing film to watch.

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Dench is a great villain in this one- all she really wanted was a "friend" but Blanchet asked for it after falling for her twink pupil.  A very good psychological horror movie.

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Dench's character is obviously not a positive one; however, we need to be open to having gay characters portrayed in all lights, just as straight characters would be. Nevertheless this was a tough and disturbing film to watch.

That level of discomfort is probably some kind of holdover from the days when gay people were more openly censured. Targets can shift and I think we always worried that it could shift to us personally, so it's still unnerving to watch a portrayal of a gay person which crosses into areas even we would consider "unacceptable". But you're right; we need to be open. It can be done intelligently, which is how Judy Dench seems to approach her roles. Or less intelligently, with the gayness itself being a shorthand emblem of the character's "corruption". I liked the way you stated "Dench is a psychopath who is a lesbian". It keeps that necessary distinction, without the element of lesbian=psychopath which can creep into a project like this. Still, in the back of the mind there's always that question of how the rest of the audience is taking it, isn't there? Good thing you were watching it with friends, though who made this choice for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend?

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 Good thing you were watching it with friends, though who made this choice for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend?

Thanks for your perceptive comments, Dougie. I was struck by the scene when Dench is asked by Julia MacKenzie (playing I think her sister in one short scene) if there's anyone special in her life. Dench clearly resents the question and doesn't respond. This is a woman who is clearly not "out;" and I don't think the city is London, but probably some more parochial part of the country.

 

Btw, we watched the film the weekend before the Thanksgiving weekend. We also watched the silent Thief of Bagdad.

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I havent seen the film since the film came out, but I'm not sure Dench was supposed to be lesbian, but a disturbed person who fixated on people out of loneliness. One could come to that conclusion, but I'm not sure if that was really true..........

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I havent seen the film since the film came out, but I'm not sure Dench was supposed to be lesbian, but a disturbed person who fixated on people out of loneliness. One could come to that conclusion, but I'm not sure if that was really true..........

You know, you may be right. I just watched the film with friends a couple of weekends ago, and we all assumed that she was a lesbian, but it wasn't actually stated. It seemed to us to be clear -- all that longing to touch, etc., as well as the inference that we felt from the brief scene with the sister, and the fact that the fixations were all on young attractive women, plus hints in the dialogue that made Cate pull away sharply; -- but still, it wasn't explicitly stated. 

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