Notes on a Scandal (2007)

February 5, 2007 at 12:50 am 1 comment

History teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) becomes obsessed with liberal art-teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). When Barbara discovers Sheba’s illicit affair with a student, she uses the knowledge to gain power over her coveted target. 

With a surface plot that wouldn’t be out of place in a made for TV movie, Notes on a Scandal at first appears shallow in its dramatic undertakings. Teacher-student affairs, jealousy and blackmail are things not entirely foreign to anyone who has read the paper or has TV3.

However, it is through the masterfully powerful acting from Dench and Blanchett that the unsettling core of this film is ever so subtly unfurled. Veteran director Richard Eyre leaves nothing unturned in his portrayal of the frightening effects of a lifetime of wanting, isolation, obsession and desire.

The Great Dame Dench offers a performance that ranges from to pathetic to sympathetic to outright psychotic in a role that offers a fascinating insight into a mind facing loneliness, neediness and impending morbidity. She effortlessly evokes empathy, sympathy and disgust from an audience that is guided through her unsettled thoughts through the medium of her diary-based narration. 

Blanchett is similarly powerful as the bohemian art teacher and Bill Nighy turns in a nice performance as the loyal, unsuspecting husband, but it is truly Dench who steals the proverbial show.

What makes this film so intriguing is the slow, mounting sense of impending disaster that surrounds it. Everything from the disquieting background music to the measured, precise narration contributes to an ever-present feeling of dread. And while it isn’t enjoyable to watch these people screw up their relationships in a last-ditch plunge at desire, it is nevertheless fascinating.

You might think it hard to relate to an adulterous art-teacher or a deranged lesbian, but so powerful is the acting on display here that it is hard not to. Oscar-credit would be completely deserved for both these award-nominated actresses for creating this excellent character-motivated drama.

Pictures: Top Right: Don’t ever borrow a fiver from Judi Dench. You’ll never hear the end of it. Bottom Left: What passion! It’s amazing they didn’t have an affair sooner.



Entry filed under: Reviews.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. More Indy... « The CinemATTIC  |  March 16, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    […] character had a thing for young men in Notes on a Scandal recently, so it would be nice for her to try out the other end of the spectrum with the geriatric […]


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