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Vera Drake















by Peter Malone,2-DEC-2004

Vera Drake

Director: Mike Leigh
Cast: Imelda Staunton, Richard Graham, Eddie Marsan
Duration: 125 minutes

Vera Drake, a film by Mike Leigh, won the Golden Lion at the 61st Venice Film Festival. This British film won a further boost when Imelda Staunton was named as Best Actress.

When it screened halfway through the festival, headlines appeared: a film about abortion. The presumption seemed to be that Vera Drake was 'pro-abortion'. A potential scandal makes for ready copy. This continued in most of the reporting about the film and its awards. The buzz about Vera Drake being a front-runner for the big award led to speculation about how the Catholic church would respond. Italian journalists are said to have a reputation for being critical of the church, if not stridently anti-clerical at times, so this would provide a field day.

In the event this did not happen, although the members of the Catholic jury for the SIGNIS award (for the World Catholic Association for Communication) were alerted to the sensitivity of the situation.

Two factors contributed to a more intelligent discussion of the film. First was the film itself. Mike Leigh is a master film-maker. He has won awards in Cannes for Naked and his very moving, Secrets and Lies. Other films include the Gilbert and Sullivan portrait, Topsy Turvey as well as the picture of very ordinary London life, All or Nothing. Vera Drake is in the All or Nothing tradition. Vera Drake is a fifty-year-old housewife in North London in 1950. She is generous to a fault. Nothing is too much trouble for her. Everyone says she has a heart of gold. She is the proverbial good woman. The first half of the film is a moving portrait of this woman whom Imelda Staunton's performance makes memorable.

Without any lead in we are shown how she also performs syringe abortions for women and girls 'in need'. She has done this for twenty years or more. Her family know nothing about it. When one girl suffers complications, hospital authorities inform the police and Vera is subject to questioning and arrest.

The second factor for discussion was Mike Leigh's press conference. He was quick to point out that his films treat social issues but never provide unequivocal answers. He provides the equivalent of a case study (something like what seminarians explored in the past during their moral theology course). Leigh noted that, while we bring our own agenda to the story, we are invited to consider a wider range of perspectives. It is not simply, or simplistically, moral judgment by unnuanced application of moral principles. Catholic confessional practice has traditionally urged for more delicacy of conscience and a greater appreciation of what full knowledge and full consent mean in the context of responsibility for actions and for sin. Leigh said that some audiences would view Vera as a saint, committed to assisting women; others would see her as a monster, destroying lives.

Most audiences hurry out as soon as final credits roll. For those who stay, they will see that Leigh dedicates his film to his parents, a doctor and a midwife.

The difficulty with labelling a film 'about abortion' is that this merely tells us the subject, or one of the subjects, of the film. The Biblical story of David and Bathsheba is about adultery and murder but that is just a labelling description. What we need to know is 'how' these issues are presented. This is the criterion for a moral evaluation of a film. This means, as a correspondent for Vatican Radio was reported as saying on air during the Venice Festival, that Leigh's film is 'difficult and interesting' and 'avoided propaganda and tentative and facile conclusions'. Catholic teaching has always urged the faithful to condemn the sin but not the sinner. Leigh's portrait of Vera Drake contributes to that way of looking at her despite what she does.


 

 

 

 



Vera Drake

導演:邁克李
主演:伊美達史丹頓、理察葛咸、艾迪馬臣
片長:125分鐘

本片由邁克李執導,贏得第六十一屆威尼斯電影節金獅獎,這齣英國電影因著伊美達史丹頓奪得最佳女主角獎而獲得更高評價。

影片在電影節期間放映時,不少媒體以「一齣關於墮胎的電影」作為標題,此假設讓人覺得影片是「贊同墮胎」,這類主題很易造成醜聞。許多有關本片及獎項的報道,不斷環繞這主題。本片在獎項榜上名列前茅,人們正期待教會將如何回應本片。過往意大利記者因著膽敢批評教會而獲得良好的評價,若不聲嘶力竭地反神職,那將成為重大問題。

結果沒有出現這情況,雖然天主教人道獎(由國際公教廣播影視協會頒發的)的評審團成員早已被提醒有關處境非常敏感。

討論影片以外的兩個元素更為明智,首先是電影本身。邁克李是大師級導演,他憑電影〈赤裸裸〉及感人真摰的〈秘密與謊言〉在康城影展中榮獲獎項。他的其他作品包括描寫吉伯特與蘇利文的〈鬥氣歌劇院〉,以及描寫平凡倫敦人生活的〈All or Nothing〉。〈Vera Drake〉延續〈All or Nothing〉的傳統調子,講述五十年代一位居於倫敦北部的五十歲家庭主婦,她寬待過失,認為任何問題也能迎刃而解。所有人也說她心地良善,是眾所周知的好婦人。電影前半段描寫這位由伊美達史丹頓飾演的婦人,演出動人,叫人留下深刻印象。

片中沒有任何伏線交代這名好婦人如何替有需要的婦女或女孩進行墮胎,她瞞著家人參與此事超過二十年,家人對此毫不知情。其中一名女孩因墮胎引致併發症令事件曝光,院方通知警方,女主角Vera被問話及拘捕。

值得討論的第二個元素是邁克李的記者招待會,他迅速地指出,自己執導的電影是探討社會問題,但從不給予明確立場,只提供相同的個案研究(就像昔日修生在道德神學課中探索一樣)。他指出,我們將自己的想法放進故事時,同時獲邀去考慮更廣闊的層面,並非單純以道德原則作判斷。天主教的修和聖事傳統以來敦促更精細的良知,及對行動和罪惡承擔責任的全面知識與全面同意予以更多欣賞。李表示,有些觀眾會視Vera為聖人,畢生協助婦女;亦有人視她為魔鬼,不斷摧毀生命。

許多觀眾在片末鳴謝字幕徐徐升上時,急不及待的離去,那些留下來的將會看到邁克李將本片獻給他父母、一名醫生及助產士。

將一齣電影標籤為「關於墮胎」的難題是,它僅僅道出電影的主題或部份內容而已。聖經故事〈達味與巴思巴〉講述通姦與謀殺,但那不過是標籤化的描述。我們需要知道的,是這些題材如何被表達出來。這是衡量電影道德價值的準則,意思是,在威尼斯電影節舉行期間,一名梵蒂岡電台的特派員在節目中指邁克李的電影「艱澀和有趣」及「避免淪為宣傳工具及避免草率地下結論」。天主教的教學一直敦促教友譴責罪行,而非譴責犯罪者。邁克李所描寫的Vera Drake讓人們面對她,不管她做過什麼。

翻譯:TMG
編輯:王慧慈

 


 

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