The Painted Veil

If there’s one film that has been on my bucket list for the longest time, it’s the screen adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil. Well. I finally watched it the other night. And. Oh, how my heart was beautifully broken!

It was pure cinematic perfection from the breathtaking cinematography to the acting to the musical score. Halfway through, Naomi Watt’s luminescent beauty reminded me of the actress who played Julia Flyte in the BBC’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, perhaps because of the hair style during the prewar years.

The title, of course, comes from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet below:

Lift Not The Painted Veil 

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,-behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it-he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

Discussing the poem is beyond my present powers. Here is an analysis by Stephanie Huff. Don’t let it, however, detract from your own interpretation/enjoyment of the poem.


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