Disagreeing with Iris: the power of words

Words get dissed: from God in Neale Donald Walsch’s conversations to a quote in the biopic on Iris Murdoch, important people are recorded as saying that language is ineffectual, inaccurate, inadequate. In Iris (2002), Kate Winslet as the young dame to be says that words are a falsehood. Coming from someone famous for words as philosopher and novelist, and who in a later scene says [slightly altered] ‘I love words, otherwise how can one think?’ such a statement seems a falsehood in itself. Surely the craft and challenge of the writer is to find the right words to convey all the shades of our existence. I find that using imagery helps for the more difficult and abstract. I’d have liked to have been at the college dinner table, answering her soliloquy and impromptu seminar to the adoring fellows, for just because Iris Murdoch was successful and charming and confident doesn’t mean she is right. It is defeating and disappointing to say that the thing we use to communicate is not very good, and that as an academic at what’s considered one of the world’s greatest learning institutions, you concede that what you use to make a name and earn your living doesn’t really work. However, Iris remained a lecturer and went on to write 26 novels as well as poems and plays, so she can’t have rated words so little. Words have been one of my greatest pleasures, but I find using them with music and image gives them their greatest effect, which is why I am so drawn to film.

Iris was viewed as part of my Kate Winslet season. Other posts here on her and reviews on Amazon UK will follow

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Filed under cinema, literature, society, writing

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