Review: The Libertine (2004)

The Libertine (2004)

Directed by: Laurence Dunmore | 130 minutes | drama | Actors: Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, John Malkovich, Rosamund Pike, Paul Ritter, Stanley Townsend, Francesca Annis, Tom Hollander, Johnny Vegas, Richard Coyle, Hugh Sachs, Tom Burke, Rupert Friend, Jack Davenport, Trudi Jackson, Claire Higgins, Freddie Jones, Robert Wilfort, Jake Curran, Paul Chahidi, Kevin Doyle, Morgan Walters, Niall Buddy, Peter Howell, TP McKenna

The title of ‘The Libertine’ combined with Johnny Depp’s name is misleading. Anyone expecting a portion of soft porn with one of the biggest sex symbols on the silver screen will be disappointed. It is a sad film about the fear of life and the inability to love and receive love. Sure, the film is full of booze and women, but it’s mostly about Count Rochester’s fear that his performance in life may not find approval in the eyes of the viewer, of his audience.

Count Rochester and King Charles II (John Malkovich) have a complicated relationship. Rochester is one moment out of favor with his monarch and the next moment his greatest confidant. When the ambassador of France comes to visit on the eve of a possible war, the king asks Rochester to write a play in which he praises England. Charles II is thus willing to let the survival of his kingdom depend on Rochester’s literary talent. Although he already knows that Rochester will not seize this opportunity to assist his monarch in these difficult times for England. They know each other through and through, but cannot live with or without each other.

His marriage to Elizabeth Malet (Rosamund Pike) is also not without problems. Although he loves her dearly, he misbehaves again and again. The relationship with his friends, with whom he shares his passion for drama, is just as complex. They insult and betray each other, but when he asks them for help, they give it to him again. Of course with the necessary taunts.

His relationship with Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton) is almost simple given all this. He is so in love with her acting that he also lusts after her as a woman. He himself cannot feel that he is alive, but he can do so through others who act virtuoso. She acts like no one has ever done before and she is boundlessly ambitious in her pursuit of completely winning over the audience. He helps her achieve that ambition and she helps him feel love without running away from it.

‘The Libertine’ is a beautifully designed film. It starts with the impressive prologue with only the talking head of Johnny Depp. He claims with great certainty that the viewer will be disgusted by the spectacle to follow. The colors are muted, the costumes and images very beautiful and the music is penetrating. The whole is a framework for the masterful role of Johnny Depp, who interprets this very complex man with all his mistakes, but also all his love, passion and sadness in a moving way and knows how to make it popular with the viewer, with the audience.

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