The Libertine (2004 film)
|Directed by||Laurence Dunmore|
|Produced by||John Malkovich|
|Written by||Stephen Jeffreys|
|Music by||Michael Nyman|
|Edited by||Jill Bilcock|
|Distributed by||The Weinstein Company|
|130 minutes (US)|
114 minutes (UK)
The Libertine is a 2004 British-Australian drama film, the first film directed by Laurence Dunmore. It was adapted by Stephen Jeffreys from his play of the same name, starring Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Samantha Morton and Rosamund Pike.
Depp stars as John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, a notorious rake and libertine poet in the court of King Charles II of England. Samantha Morton plays Elizabeth Barry, an actress whose budding talent blossoms and makes her much in demand under Rochester's tutelage. Wilmot and Barry become lovers. John Malkovich plays King Charles II, who is torn between his affection for Wilmot and the danger posed by his displays of contempt for his sovereign. Themes explored in the film include the corruption of a people by their self-indulgent monarch and the pursuit of hedonism.
John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester (Depp), delivers a prologue of themes of his fondness for drink, his sexual proclivities, and his disdain for his audience.
King Charles II (Malkovich) retracts his banishment of the earl as he has need of him in the House of Lords. Back in London, Rochester finds his "Merry Gang" friends, George Etherege (Hollander) and Charles Sackville (Vegas), in a bawdy house. Rochester encounters on the street the thief Alcock (Coyle). Impressed by his dishonesty, Rochester hires him as his gentleman. The Merry Gang introduce to Rochester who will be its newest member, 18-year-old Billy Downs (Friend). Rochester warns Downs, "Young man, you will die of this company."
The Merry Gang attend a play where the actress Elizabeth Barry (Morton) is booed off the stage, refusing to participate in a curtain call, and is fired. Rochester is taken with Barry, secures her re-employment with the theatre company, and undertakes to coach her in acting. Barry's acting improves dramatically and she delivers a brilliant performance in her next production. The King approaches Barry to spy on Rochester as to the progress of the intended tribute to the French Ambassador.
Charles, in need of money from France, asks Rochester to write a play in honour of the French Ambassador's visit. The king requests it be a "testament" to his reign. Rochester writes Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery, a scathing satire of the king's reign, which he claims is "a testament to Charles" — just what the king had asked for. The play involves vulgar language, simulated sex acts, and Rochester portraying the king being serviced. At the premiere, the king interrupts the play and on the stage confronts Rochester. Downs is injured in a sword fight outside the home of a Constable; Rochester backs away from his dying friend, whispering, "I told you."
Hiding from the king in the English countryside and sick with symptoms of syphilis, Rochester peddles phony gynaecological "treatments" for women, including the selling of "potions" made from Alcock's urine. Rochester's face has become disfigured by syphilitic gummata, which he hides beneath a mask. Charles eventually tracks down Rochester, but decides that the worst punishment possible is to simply "let you be you." Rochester returns to his estate and wife, Elizabeth (Pike), admitting to having been constantly for five years under the influence of "the drink". Elizabeth declares her love for him.
Charles' choice of heir, his Roman Catholic brother James, Duke of York, leads to a showdown with Parliament with the Exclusion Bill that would deny James the throne. Rochester uses make-up and a silver nose tip to hide the indications of syphilis as he enters the House of Lords hobbling on two canes. His denunciation in the Lords of the bill ingratiates the appreciation of the king when it is defeated. When Rochester reveals his desire to have wanted Barry as his wife she reveals she never had the desire to be the wife of anyone, she had a daughter by him that he was unaware of, and this daughter is called Elizabeth.
Rochester returns to his estate where he is bedridden in the care of Elizabeth, his mother, a priest summoned to "bring God to him" as she did not want Rochester to die as an atheist, and Alcock. Before he dies, Rochester asks the priest to recite from Book of Isaiah, chapter 53; he also asks his wife to retell the story of how he had abducted her when she was 18 years old and they fell in love. Rochester's death is followed by a scene of Elizabeth Barry playing the role of his wife in The Man of Mode, the play about him written by his friend Etheridge.
The epilogue is Rochester slipping into the darkness of an increasingly fading candlelight, asking "Do you like me now?"
- Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
- John Malkovich as King Charles II
- Samantha Morton as Elizabeth Barry
- Rosamund Pike as Elizabeth Wilmot, Countess of Rochester (née Elizabeth Malet)
- Tom Hollander as Sir George Etherege
- Johnny Vegas as Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset
- Richard Coyle as Alcock
- Rupert Friend as Billy Downs
- Jack Davenport as Harris
- Kelly Reilly as Jane
- Clare Higgins as Molly Luscombe
- Francesca Annis as Rochester's mother
- Tom Burke as Vaughan
The score to the film was composed by Michael Nyman, and released as The Libertine: Music for the Film by Laurence Dunmore in November 2005. The music represents Nyman's last score for a major motion picture to date, and his last soundtrack release.
The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 33% of 122 sampled critics gave the film positive reviews and that it got a rating average of 4.7 out of 10. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 stars out of 4 praising Johnny Depp's performance, stating "Libertines are not built for third acts. No self-respecting libertine lives that long. Johnny Depp finds sadness in the earl's descent, and a desire to be loved even as he makes himself unlovable. What a brave actor Depp is, to take on a role like this. Still, at the screenplay stage, 'The Libertine' might have seemed a safer bet than Pirates of the Caribbean, a movie [which] studio executives reportedly thought was unreleasable."
The film has grossed $4,835,065 in North America and $6,016,999 in other territories, for a total of $10,852,064 worldwide.
Awards and honours
The Libertine was nominated in eight categories in the British Independent Film Awards for 2005, and won in one category, gaining a Best Performance by a Supporting Actor or Actress in a British Independent Film award for Rosamund Pike. The other nominations were:
- Best British Independent Film
- Best Performance by a Supporting Actor or Actress in a British Independent Film (Tom Hollander)
- Best Technical Achievement (Ben van Os)
- The Douglas Hickox Award (Laurence Dunmore)
- Best Director of a British Independent Film (Laurence Dunmore)
- Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film (Johnny Depp)
- Most Promising Newcomer (Rupert Friend)
The Libertine is available on DVD as of 2004.
- Wales hosts Hollywood blockbusters
- "The Libertine (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "The Libertine (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "The Libertine". British Independent Film Awards. Archived from the original on 20 February 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2010.
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