I Capture the Castle is a film that I watch when I want to feel good. It inspires a general feeling of contentment as its imagery passes before your eyes. The storyline is quite simple and straightforward, leaving the characters to speak for themselves. The film is an adaptation of Dodie Smith's well-known novel, I Capture the Castle, which is one of my favourite coming-of-age books. The novel, like the film, is told from the pages of Cassandra Mortmain's journal, and details her eccentric family circle: her writer father, her beautiful sister, Rose, her artist stepmother and her precocious brother.
Both the novel and film remind me of a mix between Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Rose is very much like Austen's Marianne, while Cassandra, our heroine, is a lovely combination of Elizabeth's wit and cleverness, coupled with Elinor's strength of character and maturity. The storyline is also very similar to the traditional courtship tales found in Austen's novels, and it's infused with the same wit, humour and attention to social detail that make Austen's novels so memorable. However, what the film brings to the forefront from its literary sources is a strong sense of emerging desire as part of the growing up process. This is definitely not Austen territory. There is a real sweetness and freshness to this film in its depiction of sexuality, and yet, there is nothing twee about it. It just seems honest, like Cassandra herself.
But there is another reason why I watch this film so many times, and that is because it feels so close to my own memories. There are certain films that make me feel so comfortable, that I begin to attach my own memories to them, as if I'm involved in the construction of the film narrative. Does anyone else do this? Here's what I mean:
: : The image of Cassandra sun baking after a swim, which reminds me of lying on huge warm slabs of stone in my grandparents' front garden, feeling the warmth of the stones emanating through a wet bathing suit.
: : The image of Cassandra having a bath in her kitchen by the fire, that instantly brings to mind a family trip in which we had no electricity in a cottage we hired out, and took baths next to the fireplace. Bliss.
: : The image of Cassandra writing in a crowded London cafe, which always jolts me with such a desire to return to England, where I used to do the very same thing, surrounded by strangers in cafes.
: : The image of delicate flowers threaded through Rose's hair, which takes me back to a childhood birthday party in Israel, for which my mother painstakingly braided flowers into my own hair. Each time her hand brushed my cheek or the back of my neck, I caught a whiff of her perfume. I'm convinced that everyone's mother has her own unique smell, and if you're lucky, that smell is childhood itself.
I could go on, but I won't. There's something to be said for a film that can make you enjoy it on such a memory-level, as it's almost like the film is participating in your own personal history.
P.S. I want to thank everyone who commented on my previous post. Such long, and thoughtful comments, they were so reassuring and heartening to read.