“I have loved, I love, I will love,” writes Cassandra, at the close of I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, a BBC adaptation of Dodie Smith’s popular novel set in the English countryside in the 1930s. Her words nicely sum up all that occurs in and around a romantic, but rundown castle her father has rented to try and unstop his writer’s block, which has plagued him since his first successful novel years earlier.
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE is a beautiful movie complete with lovely shots of castle towers and Suffolk countryside. Family patriarch, Mortmain (Bill Nighy), packs his young family off to a picturesque castle in Suffolk. As he struggles to write his second novel, his family soon struggles with isolation and poverty. His second wife Topaz (Tara Fitzgerald) is an eccentric artist, but a supportive and loving wife and stepmother to Mortmain’s daughters Cassandra (Romola Garai) and Rose (Rose Byrne). The girls are sure they are trapped forever in the castle they thought wonderful and romantic when they moved in years before, but all that changes when two American men inherit their home. Simon (Henry Thomas) and Neil (Marc Blucas) arrive in England to settle their relative’s estate and don’t care much for the girls at first, but Rose quickly and keenly sets her sights on Simon. He is her way out of the trapped existence that has been crushing her. Rose and Cassandra scheme to get Simon to propose, and the romance is joined.
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE tells an engaging story, and its characters are both interesting and winsome. As is expected with castles and young ladies, romance rules the day. Rose’s romantic intentions are calculated. While she is game for true love, it is not as valuable to her as her escape from poverty. Her free spirit stepmother and distracted father leave her at a loss for understanding the right way for a woman to pursue a man, thus at a time when it was most important, she and her sister complain that “the thing we knew least about was being women.” Cassandra sees this clearly and worries that Rose does not love Simon as she should, which leads to even more complications. Although Cassandra tries hard to help Rose accomplish her dreams, she falls into the trap of caring too much for Simon, and ends up with a moral dilemma of her own.
The guiding forces in I CAPTURE THE CASTLE are the heart and emotions. Cassandra attempts to do what is right and good, although she does eventually get caught up in the pull of romance herself. The pagan rite elements of this are not central; as a matter of fact they seem a bit out of place, almost like they were added to complete the “castle in England” feel. Rose and Cassandra have a habit of dancing around a fire and shouting, calling it a midsummer’s eve rite. Cassandra re-enacts this practice with Simon, but it feels like a childish game more than a serious rite. However, it is clear that these characters find their centers in sensual things. The family’s servant, Stephen, is smitten by Cassandra. Though he acts nobly in his intentions toward her, he eventually becomes corrupted by sensuality at the hands of those outside of the castle.
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE covers a lot of ground — a man’s struggle for worth and his work, family loyalty and love, fidelity in marriage, and coming of age for young Cassandra. Romola Garai as Cassandra is a fabulous young actress and it is hard to take your eyes off of her throughout the movie. Henry Thomas does an excellent job as Simon. Some of the movie’s side stories are shortchanged, however, in the telling the tale of Cassandra and Rose. Rated R for some nudity, there is no explicit sex in I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, and two of its characters strive to love “honorably.” Love, however, is viewed more as a force, sometimes magical and sometimes “a murderess thing.” The main flaw is that love is viewed as a force that simply can’t be managed. Cassandra writes in her diary, “There is no choice in love,” and “There are too many games in love.” In writing these lines, she clearly recognizes the problems of love removed from its Divine Source and sacred definition.
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SUMMARY: I CAPTURE THE CASTLE is a tale of romance set in the 1930s English countryside, where two sisters living in isolation and poverty in an old castle see their opportunity for love and escape in two Americans who inherit their home. Rated R for some nudity, the main flaw is that love is viewed as a force that simply can’t be managed.
(RoRo, Pa, O, B, L, V, S, NN, A, M) Romantic worldview with characters driven by the heart and emotions (though one tries hard to fight emotion), sensual pleasure and material gain as motivation for some main characters, two scenes involving pagan practices (wishing on a gargoyle and a midsummer pagan rite dance), with biblical values pursued by two characters to love others honorably; four light obscenities and six exclamatory profanities; one very brief slapping scene; two scenes of female characters imagining their wedding night with husbands walking in with no shirt, females sitting on beds in nightgowns, one scene of clothed making out stopped by one character for being "not right," scene of implied premarital sex (couple exiting bedroom in the morning), two instances of implied unfaithfulness, but nothing graphic depicted; fairly lengthy scene of non-sexual female nude from the waist up; and, three occasions of consuming alcohol, but no drunkenness.