Watch The White Countess
- 2 hr 15 min
"The White Countess" is a 2005 movie directed by James Ivory, who has collaborated in several other critically acclaimed films such as "A Room with a View" and "The Remains of the Day". Set in 1930s Shanghai, China, the movie features an ensemble cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, and Lynn Redgrave. The story revolves around an American ex-diplomat, Jackson (Fiennes), who lost his sight due to a bomb explosion, and his encounter with a Russian refugee countess, Sofia (Richardson), who works as a taxi dancer.
The movie starts with Jackson arriving in Shanghai and seeking to open a night club with the help of his business partner, Matsuda (Hiroyuki Sanada). The city is on the brink of war, and tensions between Japanese and Chinese communities are rising. Amidst the turmoil, Jackson's struggles with his disability escalate, and his life becomes dependent on his friend's support. That is until he meets Sofia, who is dancing at a Japanese-run club called the White Countess.
Sofia, who once lived in wealth until the Revolution changed her fortunes, is the only family member taking care of her daughter, Katya (Madeleine Daly). Struggling to make ends meet, Sofia is lured into the predicament of working at the White Countess to provide for her daughter. Although Sofia is hesitant to pursue a romantic relationship with Jackson, she needs his financial assistance, and so starts to form a bond with him. Jackson is drawn to Sofia's mysterious past and resolve as the stakes get higher, and he ends up investing his entire savings in the establishment.
As Jackson and Sofia's relationship deepens, they both see the world through different lenses. Jackson is plagued by the memory of his past and his present as a blind man, and Sofia is haunted by her past life of privilege and her fight for survival in the city. Such contrasts in their lives unfolded in a gripping storyline that captures the essence of war, romance, and human resilience.
Vanessa Redgrave plays Jackson's elderly aunt, who has arrived from London to Shanghai to take care of her nephew. Redgrave's performance is a spectacular one, as she portrays a lady who has come to a foreign land with a sense of dour duty, while slowly understanding the horrors of war and being affected by them. Lynn Redgrave plays a somewhat comic role as her lady's maid.
The plot of the movie thickens as the city moves towards hostilities between the Japanese and the Chinese people. In a desperate attempt to escape the consequences of the war, Sofia tries to flee Shanghai with her daughter, but things do not go as planned, and Jackson rushes to save her. When the countess and her daughter settle in their new home, it's time to decide whether Jackson and Sofia will carry on with their lives separately or together in this tumultuous period.
"The White Countess" is a visually stunning movie, set against the backdrop of the shimmering lights of Shanghai, and captures the murky, diseased atmosphere of a city on the verge of destruction. The movie also features a splendid soundtrack composed by Richard Robbins, who has worked on several Ivory films, and includes music that exudes the grandeur of this era.
In conclusion, "The White Countess" is a moving, thought-provoking movie that beautifully represents the grandeur of 1930s China and human resilience in adversity. Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson give layered performances as characters who are physically and emotionally scarred by their past, but find solace in each other's company. The dynamics of their relationship and the surroundings in which they find themselves combine poignantly with the dramatic action that is occurring around and within them.
The White Countess is a 2005 drama with a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.5 and a MetaScore of 60.