Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sherlock and The Woman

"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex." - Dr. Watson A Scandal in Bohemia.

You'll have all bear with me, I'm about to get a little geeky, even more than usual. Also, I've kept this post as spoiler free as I can, but you'll still have to read at your own risk. My best advice? Watch Elementary, then come back to this post. (Yes, do it!)

Inspiration for this post happened when I was perusing the exhibits at the comicon. I saw this piece of art related to BBC's Sherlock that I found to be intriguing of Holmes and Irene. I thought it would be cool if I borrowed some elements of the idea and do something of my own. It got me thinking of the characters and in particular the enigmatic and lovely Irene Adler herself. In the original story, she was the woman who outsmarted Holmes in a case involving her scandalous liaisons with a Bohemian King. In comparison to the aura that surrounds this character today, Doyle's original work is pretty tame. However, despite the grandiose nature of her character, I've never been pleased by any portrayal of Irene. Even in the Jeremy Brett adaptation, (which I love) though very canon in portrayal and beautiful in appearance, Irene was a little dull. Otherwise they usually portray Irene Adler in a very sexual way, very seductive, and always annoying. I was actually surprised, though, by Rachel McAdams, and by surprised I mean I didn't hate her portrayal. She's grown on me, and I do like that they took her character in a more vulnerable route, which I think makes her character sympathetic. However, even with Rachel there is still mostly sexual interplay and annoying self-assertiveness. So, I've not been very impressed by any Irene Adler. That is until Natalie Dormer's portrayal in Elementary. I instantly liked her face (I hadn't seen her in anything up to this point) and was confident that someone finally was going to do her character justice. I was not disappointed. Actually, my expectations were exceeded. Natalie Dormer brings to Irene's character a sophistication, feminine mystique, and most importantly of all, a razor sharp mind on par with Sherlock Holmes; after all, it was her wits that impressed Holmes, not her sexual appeal.

"You're beautiful!," says Irene
to the unsuspecting Sherlock Holmes.
In Elementary, Holmes is a recovering drug addict, self absorbed and somewhat childish, but with an exceptional gift of deduction and seeing the must minute of details. His love for puzzles makes him unyielding in a case and blunt in speaking the truth, whether anyone wants to hear it or not (TMI!). When he first meets Irene she is a restorer of old paintings and her own bluntness and disarming mind and beauty impresses him immediately. I love the almost old Hollywood-esque sharp banter between the two of them as Natalie Dormer is able to show the sensuality and seduction of Irene in a way that accentuates her intelligence and femininity, which is rather like the femme fatales of Film Noir. Natalie Dormer actually reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Film Noir actresses, Gloria Grahame. She has the same quality about her, the mischievous and intelligent eyes and impish face that makes her either vulnerable or untrustworthy, but carries an irresistible attraction that is all woman. With this quality about her, Natalie Dormer makes you truly believe that Irene is someone Holmes would say "eclipses and dominates" her sex. I would like to mention Johnny Lee Miller's performance further sells this point. Holmes is completely smitten by her. It's cute. . . in a disturbing way.

See what I mean?
All this to say that I did two pieces of work based on Guy Ritchie's Holmes and Irene and Robert Doherty's Holmes and Irene; more character studies, I guess you can say. The first one, Catatonic:

I wanted to bring out the vibrancy, passion, and disturbance that Irene brings to Holmes' world which is usually controlled and logical. Irene challenges Holmes, but there is definitely a mutual attraction and love between the two of them; though Holmes keeps his distance, showing his true feelings in only fleeting moments. As Watson says, "Why is the only woman you've cared about a world class criminal? Are you a masochist?" Haha. This version of the characters is the farthest from canon, but it is clever, actually rather sweet, and great fun. I am awaiting eagerly for the third installment!

In this piece, Games and Puzzles, show an entirely different kind of relationship dynamic, also not canon, but I think an impressive interpretation. Here Irene is in white to represent how Holmes sees her, an ideal, someone whom he loves intensely and unreservedly. Here he is moving towards her, grasping her, as if to keep her as he sees her, but she keeps her distance. She looks vulnerable, but is she? I love the darker interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes universe in Elementary, it is very poetic, but Holmes is still Holmes, and what is revealed in this complex relationship, I think, is very much in the spirit of Sir Conan Doyle's work.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this very nerdy post and art pieces. Gotta love the world of Sherlock Holmes.

"My mind," he said, "rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world." - Sherlock Holmes Sign of the Four

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11