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And in Other Cringe-worthy Momements in Film History
About three-quarters of the way through the joyride of explosions and witty deliciousness that is Skyfall, it happened: Judi Dench’s character M, called before a committee of Parliament to defend the actions of MI6, punctuates her case by quoting a Tennyson poem. I cringed a little.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Mov’d earth and heaven, that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Now, I like the closing lines of “Ulysses” a lot, and they certainly fit with one of the movie’s central themes: mustering the strength of tired, old warriors. And I get that the lines are probably new to a lot of Bond watchers. But Tennyson’s grandeur — the suddenly elevated language — struck me as glaringly out-of-place. The quote comes shortly after Bond makes a quip about scotch, and guns down a half-dozen people. I’d argue that the Scotch scene is more appropriately poetic. It’s a Bond movie, for God’s sake.
So when are poems used appropriately in movies? They tend to work in two cases: when the grandeur of a scene is already elevated, or when a scene brings the grandeur of a poem down to its level.
Lundberg goes on to give a few key quotes from poetry in film. Make the jump to read them.