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North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

*sigh* Watched North&South yesterday and today. I so wanted to read the book first, but I yielded to temptation. :))

What a lovely story, what a great BBC production. Wow, I feel so contented. I've always liked stories in which social injustices are raised (the social feeling person in me), together with a passionate love story (the incurable romantic in me). The reason why I'm such an admirer of Charles Dickens as well (despite his sometimes objectionable ideas).

I think I'm probably the last of the fans of 19th century costume drama who's seen this, but just in case, it's the story about Margaret Hale, a vicar's daughter from the South of England who moves with her parents to the North, and John Thornton, a cotton manufacturer in the North. We're in Victorian England where the Industrial Revolution is leaving its terrible marks: atrocious working conditions: unhealthy, long work hours, low wages and no law as yet against children's labour. The workers are poor, badly fed and often very ill. Margaret's acquaintance with John is unpleasant and she cannot see him but as a tirant of a master. He befriends her father. Margaret, for her part, is attracted by and feels compassion for the working class and becomes friends with Bessy Higgins whose intelligent, feeling father is active in the Union. At one point all union workers go on strike and due to one desperate man things get out of hand... Margaret's part in this strike, gives John -- who's madly in love with her -- enough encouragement to offer his hand, which she refuses... After that, on all levels things go wrong: the death of both her parents, an incident at the railway station where Margaret says goodbye to her brother (who nobody knows since he's in hiding due to a problem with the Navy), but is mistaken by John for a lover, followed by a police investigation...

After having inherited a large sum from her guardian, Margaret -- who in the meantime has fallen head over heals in love with Thornton too -- leaves for London. Thornton's mill goes bankrupt. :(

Is this already to spoiler-ish? OK, I won't tell how it all ends, but I'm sure you won't mind if I tell you that after the numerous hardships, misunderstandings, mistaken ideas about each other's character... all is well that ends well.

I think the cast is excellent as well as the direction and cinematography. Beautiful colours, very appealing close-ups. Partly (certainly the way Margaret looks at Thornton) it reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, but there are too many differences, I think, to call it a 'Victorian P&P'.

The feelings are restrained, but oh boy, the tension between the couple is felt all the time. There's terrific chemistry between the two leads.

The way they reconstructed the mill is fantastic: "a white hell", as Margaret calls it: the whirls of cotton flocks, looking like snow, is beautiful to see but catastrophic for its effects, obviously. The dialogue seems a bit slow, a bit forced from time to time, but the expression on the faces are telling enough. I like the accent of the North.

The score is b e a u t i f u l. Very compelling indeed.

A final remark: everytime I think about it or re-run the scene I get tears in my eyes when he says: "Look back... look back at me." when she steps into the carriage to leave for London: it breaks my heart. The ppor tormented soul! But that same heart of mine is mended, when I see his smile in the end when he listens to her 'business propostion'.

Lovely, lovely... Can't wait to start the book. :)
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Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

For the fans of Richard Armitage. This wonderful actor is to play Claude Monet in a new BBC mini-series. Read more here

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Renee, I'm afraid I have to say that "I" am the newest fan of North and South! I had rented it a while back and watched it very late at night when I was overly tired. I didn't like it at all at first viewing, but I saw so many people raving about it that I came to the conclusion that I must've been mistaken. I rented it again and so began my slow falling in love with it. My own copy on DVD arrived in the mail today and I'm so happy to have it.

I agree with you about the 'look back...look back at me' scene. It is heart wrenching, but the end of the film is such a wonderful balm to my heart. The expression on his face as he listen's to Margaret's 'business' proposition exudes love and tenderness. Very satisfying!

Rita

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

The expression on his face as he listen's to Margaret's 'business' proposition exudes love and tenderness

Definitely, Rita and the funny thing is, I don't think he's listening at all... He's just drinking in her image, sits there being happy to have found her! He's so moved. That actor sure as h@ll can play a man in love, can't he?

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

"...I don't think he's listening at all..." So true! He looks like he'd like to just eat her up with a spoon.

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Just have to add my "ditto" to everything said above.

I also love the interview with Richard Armitage on the DVD extras. He's very gracious about being compared to Darcy and he says the "look back, look back" scene is one of his favorites.

I think the ending is perfect. His expression is so severe through most of the movie that when he smiles at sight of her, it's like the sun breaking through the clouds and bathing the world in light.

Oh, goodness, I'm growing warm all over!

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

There's no interview on my DVD. There are no extras at all... Produced for the Dutch market, I guess, was very cheap. I won't go so far as to buy the English version, but I'm quite put out by it!

Today I re-watched the proposal scene. Love it when he says he doesn't want to possess her but love her.

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Renée, I believe you might find the interview at C19. I saw a reference there to the extended proposal scene. I bet you could find the interview there as well.

As for RA's favourite three scenes, he was laying the charm on very thick there. He had that look in his eye - he definitely said it on purpose and with deadly intent! But then can we blame him for playing into the hands of his fans? After all I definitely wanted to hear him say he liked the romantic scenes best.

<-- off to read N&S again

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Thanks, Cashima! C19 is a great site, and I browse over there frequently. But it's rather extensive and this escaped my notice. I'll check it out, I wanna know what he said! That passion during the first proposal... I don't want you for my possession... I want to marry you, because I love you. Sim thought the Norfolk (right?) accent a bit fake, but I love it. Ah well, figures, I'm from a working class family.

symbolic or not...

did you notice this as well? When the mill is closed and Higgins and Thornton have their last exchange, they shake hands. Thornton's hand is dirty as is Higgins's. Not a well-cared for gentleman's hand at all. Is this a symbol of Thornton not being a master anymore, do you think? Nothing more than his workers? Or, is it meant to show that he felt himself not superior to his workers and worked as hard, if not harder?

I thought it rather 'eyecatching', so, it must mean something.

Renée

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

I noticed the hands as well, Renee'...It struck me as a sign that he, too, was a working man and that they respected eachother as equals but doing 'different'jobs.

Another scene that stands out to me is when John and Margaret meet at the train station and he hands her the rose. She says she'd thought they were all gone, but he tells her he found it in the hedgerow...'you have to look hard'. Every time I hear him say that and I look at the expression on his face, it makes me realize that he had found 'his' rose and he had had to 'look hard'to find her.

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

I noticed the hands as well, Renee'...It struck me as a sign that he, too, was a working man and that they respected eachother as equals but doing 'different'jobs.

You put it a little differently, hon, but it's pretty much how I feel about it too. Darn, I still have to read the book.

The rose was one of the most beautiful moments, indeed. I mentioned that one is my favourite one at C19: symbolic for their relationship, definitely!

Very nice too that it sort of starts with that rose and ends with it: all's well that ends well...

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

I'm sorry to say that my only thought about the hands is "Oh my God, he didn't wash his hands!!!" I don't think it was connected with the story. I don't see why or how. Throughout the series Thornton is always very clean. Then his shirt isn't smeared all over with oil or ink or whatever it is either in that scene. Dirty finger nails are just disgusting. I always squeeze my eyes shut when this handshake comes up. I cannot forgive Thornton's dirty hands and I am sure Margaret wouldn't either. And anyway, home come his hands weren't dirty when they kissed at the station? It is supposed to be the same day. The cleansing waters of Helstone, eh? ;)

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Did I look too far, perhaps? I don't know. It was awful indeed that dirty hand, how did he get it so dirty? The director must have noticed, don't you think? Such a huge close-up! Well, the dirty hand, combined with the empty mill and the fact he said "I'm nobody's master anymore", made me conclude it was meant symbolically. But then again, perhaps I wish it to be so, since it's such a nasty sight, and therefor deliberately done!

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Do you mean Thornton is to turn into a dirty "hand" and therefore his hand was made to look dirty? Ooooh, that sounds very sophisticated. I never look for such symbols in films or on tv. I just never expect them there. A nasty prejudice, I know.

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Looking at the dates of these postings, no, I must claim to be the latest of the periodfilm fans to have discovered this fim. I just saw it two weeks ago-- ahhh... Better late than never. Left me with a happy heart!

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

Indeed, a happy heart! I loved this mini-series.

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

I positively loved North & South. I so loved the attention to the hands throughout the movie: Thornton touching her hand when she gives him his tea cup... Margaret and Thornton shaking hands and the lingering touch..., Thornton tenderly touching her head when she fell...Thornton leaving he gloves after the disastrous proposal, and Margaret holding them...the holding of hands at the end scene, touching her face...Thornton's hand as he closes the train door....Lovely, lovely, all lovely.
(sigh)

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

The magic of the hand indeed... It's been a while, but now that I browsed through this old thread thanks to Karentea, I think I'll put the DVD in the machine again!

Re: North&South's John Thornton: "Look back... look back at me..."

In the book there is also a fair amount of attention paid to hands and arms, IIRC. There is one lovely passage during one of Thornton's first meetings with Margaret, where he sits and watches her pour tea. He notices a little bracelet that keeps sliding down her forearm to her wrist, and she keeps pushing it back up her arm, and then he notices the way it slightly bites into the plump white flesh there.... It is really a very erotic scene - and written by a prim Victorian woman at that! ;)

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