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"It is Iris's love - her love of life, of her art, of John - that endures."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
He is an award-winning
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"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
As for tongues, knowledge, and prophecies, they will all come to an end - but not love. As for physical communication, writings, and mental achievements, they will come to an end - but not love.
The life of popular and prolific British novelist Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) as presented in this film based on two books by her husband, distinguished literary critic John Bayley, is a testament to the famous biblical passage about "The Gift of Love":
"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. "Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge it will come to an end . . . And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor. 13:1-13)
Iris, directed by Richard Eyre, skillfully follows the young Iris and John (played by Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville), as well as the older twosome (played by Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent) during the novelist's increasing Alzheimer's. Alternatingly viewing the different periods of the couple's life and love is bittersweet and extremely moving, but shows the dimensions and strengths of love as chronicled in 1st Corinthians.
Iris strongly believed in the freedom of the mind. She was talented, opinionated, independent, inquisitive, and adventuresome - in many respects a "noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" in the literary world and within her society of many friends.
Through her writings, both of fiction and philosophy, she delved into the mysteries of relationships and expressed much knowledge of life. But it is not the knowledge or the mortal exploits that endure, Iris realized.
"Love's the only language everyone understands," she says. It is Iris's love - her love of life, of her art, of John - that endures.
As disturbing as it is to witness Iris's loss of memory and abilities, it is comforting to realize that her love survives in the hearts of those who knew and love her and in her writings that have touched so many people.
The lengthy, loving relationship between Iris and John illustrates love bearing all things while believing and hoping and rejoicing in the truth and the pursuit of goodness.
"Nothing matters except loving what is good," Iris says. She explains that her novels explore individual freedom and what it means to be good and to love.
As Iris's mind becomes eclipsed by the disease, John is increasingly required to call forth the virtues of patience, kindness, and unconditional love in caring for her. There are times under the strain when John does become irritable and frustrated, but he always returns to the truth of his love.
In a speech, Iris discusses her belief that "being pure ourselves," humans once were able to see pure forms. Iris depicts the physical impure forms coping with mortal limitations while, in various levels of awareness, touching the purity of eternal love.