"Ponderous Period Piece"
What You Need To Know:
SOLOMON & GAENOR is a story of romantic tragedy and bigotry that lacks credibility. For example, it never occurs to the couple that Gaenor could become pregnant or that Solomon, who’s drifted away from the Jewish heritage of his xenophobic family, could convert to marry Gaenor. Of course, the filmmakers seem more interested in portraying prejudice against Jews in a Christian nation than examining the possibility of religious conversion. They force the story to its tragic conclusion in order to comment on society, the human condition and the nature of courage, as reflected by Solomon’s troubles to find Gaenor. They also include explicit, gratuitous sex and nudity in their movie
(FRFR, PaPa, B, AbAb, L, VV, SSS, NN, AA, D, MM) Jewish pagan worldview with some biblical & moral elements & a veiled, but strong, attack against the practices of a Christian church in Wales in 1911, plus elements of anti-Semitism which are rightfully condemned; 3 obscenities & 3 mild profanities (Heavens Above! & for God’s sake); moderately strong, violent fight scene between two men, violence depicted against Jews & against fornicating Jewish protagonist, & pig slaughtered off-screen from afar but image of butcher knife cutting into its chest; several scenes of depicted fornication; scenes of upper & rear nudity & upper nudity of pregnant woman; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking; and, envy, lying & rebellion.
A period drama that also tries to make a significant social comment better be reasonably interesting. Otherwise, what’s the point?
That’s the problem SOLOMON & GAENOR faces. Does its story of tragic romance and bigotry have enough appealing qualities to maintain viewer interest? If not, then no degree of artistic presentation is going to make it worth their time. Nor will it make it worth the artist’s time, especially if the artist is attempting to deliver an important social message.
Sluggish, drab and unbelievable at times, SOLOMON & GAENOR is set in 1911 in a Welsh mining town. The movie tells what happens when a Jewish rag peddler named Solomon falls in lust with one of the Protestant maidens in the town, a young woman named Gaenor.
When the movie introduces Solomon, he’s rebelling against his Jewish heritage. For instance, Solomon looks down upon his grandfather’s scholarly interest in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses inspired by God, and the Talmud, the Jewish reinterpretation of the Word of God. Most of the Talmud, of course, was written after Jesus Christ and His apostles, nearly all of whom were Jews. That’s why you’ll find a more valid, more accurate Jewish outlook on God in the New Testament documents, including the words of Jesus, than you will in nearly all of the pages of the Talmud.
Ironically, later on in the movie, Solomon’s Jewish family shows no knowledge of the biblical passage in Exodus 22:16, 17 in the Torah, where God says that an unmarried male who violates a virginal female must marry the female and pay her father “the bride-price,” a significant gift, probably of money. If the father refuses to give his daughter to the man, then the man still must pay the bride-price.
Solomon and Gaenor are immediately attracted to one another when they first meet. Solomon tries to get Gaenor to buy some pretty red cloth for a dress, which he thinks will look lovely on her. When her parents tell her they can’t afford the material, Solomon makes the dress for her as a gift anyway. Despite the gift, Solomon deceives Gaenor by telling her his name is Sam Livingston, which reminds Gaenor of Dr. Livingstone, the famous missionary to Africa. Solomon seems to be afraid of being rejected by both Gaenor and her family if they knew about his Jewish heritage, but later Solomon reveals that his own family would shun both of them completely if they married.
So far, so good, except for Solomon’s deception. From there, however, the movie depicts the two lovers engaging in several scenes of explicit fornication. Then, Gaenor becomes pregnant, the truth comes out and Gaenor is banished from the fellowship of her church. She refuses her mother’s entreaties to marry the father of her baby, because Gaenor is too proud to do so, still thinking that Solomon is a gentile. Eventually, Gaenor finds out Solomon is Jewish and the two plan to run away together. Their plans are upset, however, when railway and dock strikes shut down the local mines. The town’s Protestant miners, desperate for money and egged on by the minister who banished Gaenor, riot against the Jewish merchants out of envy.
These riots seem to re-awaken the Jewish heritage in Solomon. He still loves Gaenor, however. Wrapped in his prayer shawl, he leaves Cardiff, where his persecuted family has forced him to stay with his uncle, a rabbi. After suffering a bloody beating from Gaenor’s brother, Solomon goes searching for the isolated country farmhouse where Gaenor’s family has stashed her to have the baby.
Throughout this earnestly portrayed story, it never occurs to this sinful couple that Gaenor could become pregnant. Also, it never occurs to Solomon that he could convert to Christianity so that he can marry Gaenor. Not only that, but the couple takes much delight in their fornication. Only when Gaenor becomes pregnant do the consequences of their sin acts put stress on their relationship. Thus, the logic of the story unravels, especially when you remember that the movie suggests that Solomon is fighting the heritage of his xenophobic Jewish family and that Gaenor seems to be somewhat active in her church. Of course, because of his non-Christian worldview, the writer/director, Paul Morrison, is more interested in portraying prejudice against Jews in a Christian nation than he is in examining the possibility of religious conversion.
At one point, Solomon writes a letter to Gaenor (that never gets delivered) where he asks her to “pray to your God,” and he will pray to his God, and maybe they’ll be reunited. Despite these sentiments and some biblical and moral elements, SOLOMON & GAENOR ultimately presents a pagan worldview, coupled with a veiled, but strong, attack against the Christian church where Gaenor’s family worships. Even its Jewish elements, some of which are inherently unbiblical, are further skewed in an unbiblical way. This is true even though it becomes clear at the end of the movie that Solomon’s ultimate goal in finding Gaenor is to marry her in a Jewish ceremony.
Another problem with SOLOMON & GAENOR is that its acting is only serviceable. This and the fact that the sets are somewhat artificial and limited also hurt the movie’s credibility. Compounding this credibility problem is the development of the story near the end, where Solomon searches for the farmhouse. The directions he gets from Gaenor’s brother don’t seem all that helpful, and there are long stretches showing Solomon wandering almost aimlessly through the snow. Thus, instead of letting his story develop naturally, Morrison seems to be forcing the story to its conclusion in order to comment on society, the human condition and the nature of courage, as reflected by Solomon’s valiant attempt to locate Gaenor.
Finally, the secret scenes of lovemaking between Solomon and Gaenor seem anachronistic. Here, too, the director is imposing his modern worldview upon his story. Of course, the fornication scenes are also way overdone. Their explicit, gratuitous sex and nudity earn the movie a solid R-rating. This content is another thing damaging the movie’s accessibility. The question remains, therefore, if an artist tries to make a significant social comment that will affect people’s lives, then why work so hard to limit the audience of your movie? To put it directly, what’s the point, Mr. Morrison? Why did you bother to make this movie?
If an artist can’t answer these questions, he should go home and rethink what he’s doing.
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