Saturday, September 29, 2007

Longford

We watched this HBO film last week. It was a difficult film and it was a film which delicately managed to give no answer.

Lord Longford was a member of the House of Lords several times over, a devout Christian and converted Catholic who devoted much of his life to prison visits and championing prisoner's rights. In the late 60's he started visiting Myra Hindley.

It's hard to describe for people who haven't studied British History how hated Myra Hindley was and actually still is. Her name is on a par with John Wayne Gasey or Jeffrey Dahmer in America. She and her lover Ian Brady murdered 5 children and buried the bodies on the moors. Three were under 10 and two were adolescents.

Hindley and Brady were considered monsters and it was only because of the abolition of the death penalty, a mere weeks before their trial, that they were not put to death. They were both given life sentences, but life was considered to be 21 years.

Longford was played by Jim Broadbent and Hidley by the amazing Samantha Morton. Brady was played with frightening intensity by Andy Serkis.

The British public was most angered and shocked by the fact that a woman had committed these crimes. It seemed to go against all of nature. Yes, men might do terrible, violent crimes, but there was supposed to be something better in women. The excuse both here and there seems to always be that "she" was led astray by her love/obsession with a man.

Longford did everything in his power to fight for early release for Hindley despite the derision it brought to him and his family only to have it explode in his face when she was forced by Brady to confess to the last two murders. Hindley died in prison in 2002. Brady is still alive and serving his sentence.

As I said, the film was hard and it gave no answer. We don't know if Hindley genuinely reformed in prison or if she was merely using Longford. At the end of the film, near the end of both their lives, she reveals that she did enjoy committing the murders.

I can't say enough about how much I love Jim Broadbent. In interviews he is a desperately shy person, but he can transform completely--from the boisterous Zidler (probably his best known role) to this, the eccentric and dedicated Longford.

IMDB reveals that he put pebbles in his shoe to walk painfully in his last scene as Longford (then 92). My husband asked me if this meant he was method or not--I'd go with not. A method actor eschews artificial trappings. But a method actor also welcomes verisimilitude, so I'm not sure. I know he insisted on a prosthetic nose and chin. Looking him up on IMDB he says he works just like Judi Dench.

Back to the question of Hindley. What do we make of the female serial killer? Is instinct more thwarted by a female than a male? And too, can the death penalty ever be used? Who deserves death--who is purely evil, and beyond redemption? Longford would have said no one.

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