Totally unconditional love that does complete justice to Shakespeare’s sonnet “Marriage of true minds”. That is what the story of Iris Murdoch and John Bayley represents. For someone who has been fond of reading , I feel almost guilty now for never having read any of her writings.
The film “Iris” , directed by Richard Eyre is based on John Bayley’s book “An Elegy for Iris”. The film tells the story of how the two met in Oxford where they were both teaching and then flits back and forth , bringing out starkly the vivaciousness of the younger Iris and the vulnerable , helpless human being she had become in her later days, when she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Their personalities didn’t seem to match at all . She is the confident , outspoken , spirited one and he is gawky and naïve in comparison. But of course they must have recognized something in each other that they knew would outlast the peripheral impressions of compatibility. The characters are so well acted out by Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville as the younger Iris and John and by Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent as the aging couple , coping with the effects of the disease that had incapacitated her even in her normal day to day activities.
Imagine someone, who regarded words and expression of thoughts as something that was of paramount importance to the human existence, suddenly hitting upon a total blank. How frightening that must be. How much of love and patience must he have had to help her through each little tiny act through days and weeks and months.
I’ve always marvelled at the way, filmmakers in Hollywood and in the U.K choose actors to play the different roles and the meticulous way in which they try to portray them even lookswise. Out of curiosity I googled for pictures of Iris Murdoch and John Bayley and was struck by the close resemblance the actors seemed to have with the originals, both in their younger days as well as in their advancing years. Of course there is any amount of learning to be done by our film industry here in India , particularly in the case of Bollywood films, but this aspect is something no one even really bothers about.
Iris is a must watch film for many reasons..for reaffirming belief in true and unflinching love, for excellent direction and editing, for wonderful acting and for increasing one’s awareness of a malady that seems to leave you totally at the mercy of the love and patience of your dear ones.