What Remains of the Day: A Classic Melodrama with Epic Themes
What Remains of the Day is a film that speaks to the texture of memory, the mysteries of love, and the politics of the time. It is a melodrama that represents the emotions involved in love relationships and the difficulties that break them. The film turns thirty in 2023, and it continues to fascinate audiences around the world.
Borges once said that the cinema satisfies two needs of the human soul: melodrama and epic. What Remains of the Day is a classic example of this. The film tells the story of a butler named Stevens who serves at Darlington mansion during the golden age of the British empire. It is a tale of feelings, silences, and politics that houses a secret romance behind the scenes.
The Unusual Union Behind the Scenes
The film was the product of an unusual union between several talented individuals. Ismail Merchant, an Indian Muslim producer, worked alongside Anglo-Irish director James Ivory, Jewish-German screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and British-Japanese novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. The result is one of the most fascinating stories in the history of cinema.
The story is divided into two moments: the trip that Stevens makes to meet a colleague, and his memories of the service at Darlington mansion during the 1930s. In this era dominated by traditions and order, Stevens devoutly believes in something greater than himself: the nobility represented by Lord Darlington. His service to Lord Darlington soon becomes his life, and he locks his own heart away.
A Clash of Old and New Worlds
However, the arrival of two new presences upsets the world he knows. Lewis, an American businessman, stirs up the English lords with his warning that they are amateurs in international politics. Meanwhile, the new housekeeper, Miss Kenton, represents a clash between cultures and generations, the old and the new world.
The casting process played a crucial role in the making of the film. Christopher Reeve, who played Lewis, was so excited after seeing the movie that he told director Ivory that he wanted to be a part of any movie he made next. Hugh Grant, who played Lord Darlington’s godson, said that this was the best film he had ever made.
What Remains of the Day was previously set to be directed by Mike Nichols, but he stepped down and helped Merchant produce. Ivory had already worked with Merchant on other films, including A Love in Florence and Howard Mansion, both starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. With What Remains of the Day, Ivory delivered another masterpiece.
The Intrinsically Political Nature of the Film
What Remains of the Day is also an intrinsically political film. In one sequence, an English lord calls on Stevens to ask him about various political, economic, social, and cultural issues that affect the British Empire. Although Stevens admits to not having the answers, the lord still believes that decisions about the nation can be left in the hands of people like him.
The English lords feel guilty for the “humiliation” suffered by Germany after World War I, and want to support their reconstruction with the rise of Nazism. “It is contributing to evil without meaning to, from the noblest of intentions,” Ishiguro explained.
The Unseen Love Behind the Scenes
Behind the scenes, the film had a love story of its own. Ismail Merchant and James Ivory had a hidden romance for more than four decades. Although they were never open about it, they loved each other deeply. Years after Merchant’s death in 2005, Ivory admitted that their relationship was never a sad one.
Their love story is reminiscent of the kind of melodrama that the film portrays. Ivory explained that his life was easy and that he never felt the anxiety of suppressing his feelings. The actors who worked with him describe him as a person devoted to beauty.
A Classic Tale of Sunsets and Unfinished Loves
What Remains of the Day is a movie that captures the essence of the human experience. It speaks to love, loss, and the decisions we make that shape the course of our lives. It is a tale of sunsets and unfinished loves, of the end of an era and the birth of another. It is a classic that will continue to captivate audiences for generations to come.