Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022


You can do it, Anne! It only took one wagon ride to convince Matthew you belonged in the family, and Marilla may well be a tougher nut to crack, but you’ve had a whole extra day to win her over. For as much as Marilla has protested over Anne’s precocious and talkative nature, it’s been easy to see her initial distrust fade into something at least a dash more warm and accommodating. And with Anne having promised to make the most of this final ride, I imagine she’ll be returning to the star-struck wonder of her first journey, with a sprinkling of melancholy to tug at Marilla’s heart. Marilla’s certainly a tough customer, but it’s hard to imagine any fundamentally decent person won’t be won over by Anne eventually.

I’m quite looking forward to seeing Anne triumph today, even though it’s also been fun to witness her larger-than-life despair. Whether in happiness or sorrow, Anne is determined to live with the intensity of her storybook heroes, with Takahata’s production providing a suitably gorgeous backdrop for her adventures. It’s been a privilege to watch and write about this profoundly generous production, and I hope you’re half as excited as I am as we return to the hills of Green Gables!

Episode 4

“Anne’s History.” That’s right Anne, reveal your story and capture Marilla’s heart!

The first shot of the episode offers an excellent multilayered composition, using the foreground leaves on the right side of the screen to essentially hedge Anne in between the leaves and the house, the two lines meeting in a blockade at the top, presenting a sense of her being trapped and forced to go with Marissa. Choices like these aren’t intended to be conscious metaphors for the audience to parse – these quiet rules of visual entrapment and drawing the eye are all intended to work on a purely subconscious level, exploiting our natural tendency to draw meaning from the orientation of objects. Using movement or discordant color to draw the eye, sculpting a composition so the eye follows its lines towards a specific vanishing point, and stranding characters within compositions much larger than necessary to fully capture them are all ways the artist/storyteller can command the audience’s attention, drawing them this way and that like a musical conductor

Basically every carriage ride in this show feels like a gift, considering how gorgeous the background art is. The further we travel, the more we get to appreciate this beautiful countryside

Oh Matthew. The best resistance he can offer is mentioning how he already talked about hiring another boy for the summer. He’s trying, but he’s far too timid to outright contradict his sister

Another great shot of Matthew as the carriage disappears. Matthew is captured in profile on the right side of the screen, with the contrast between the busy woodland composition to his back and the clear, open sky beside him evoking a sense of isolation. We can feel his sense of loneliness at Anne leaving in the way his form is isolated within the much wider space of this composition

This trend of Anne’s party emerging from the woodland towards the blue horizon continues across the next several shots; the countryside surrounding Green Gables has already been made familiar to us, while the sky ahead offers no clues as to what the future may bring

Only when Anne announces her intention to enjoy this drive does the camera finally hone in, and return to neutral framing. And when she mentions an early rose on the side of the road, we cut directly to it, the wonder of this world’s details restored through Anne’s newly positive perspective

“Wouldn’t it be nice if roses could talk?” Anne is back on her bullshit again, and I’m here for it

Anne states that “redheaded people can’t wear pink, even in their imaginations.” It is such an Anne idea to assign a unique set of rules to her imagination, based on the narrative conventions she’s internalized. All of her rules of how the world works are based on novels

Marilla immediately dashes her hopes of her hair eventually turning non-red

“Well, there is another hope gone.” Anne’s way of speaking is so good

“My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.” Incredibly relatable character. I’m going to start using this line whenever anything even slightly unfortunate happens to me

Of course, even that line she stole from a book

“I say it over and over to comfort myself.” “I don’t see the comfort in that.” “Why, because it sounds so nice and romantic.” Anne seems to have taken to fantasizing her life story in order to survive it. Her life is hard and unlucky, but she has read many stories about people living similarly hard, unlucky lives, and learned all of their mechanisms for expressing their sorrow. By turning her own suffering into a fable, she is able to see a certain kind of beauty or narrative inevitability in it, making the unhappiness that much easier to bear

Today we’ll be traveling by the shore road. Both Anne and I are equally excited about what sights this journey might bring – with art design this beautiful, it is easy to relate to Anne’s bedazzlement at this world

Marilla suggests she put her talking to some use, by telling Marilla what she knows about herself. Anne counters that her life is boring, and it’d be much more interesting to talk about what she imagines about herself

Anne actually shows some genuine distress here, pushing back against Marilla’s request. It seems Anne has only really been able to accept her lot in life by not thinking about the bad things, and filling her mind with happy fantasies instead

A neighbor stops by the cart, and Anne takes this opportunity to flee, and sit sulking on a fence nearby

Once again, the compositions emphasize the isolation of the characters, stranding Anne alone against this massive clear sky. If you simply tilted the camera thirty degrees downward, the composition would be brimming with all the vegetation and domiciles of the countryside, like in the first episode – but this show is intended to directly echo Anne’s feelings, and thus it is crucial that she looks visually isolated

Of course, Marilla doesn’t move to retrieve her. Perhaps the only thing these two have in common is stubbornness

A cloud passes overhead as melancholy horns give voice to Anne’s feelings. Like with the initial sequence at the train station, this production is unafraid to let a moment breathe, and thus capture a feeling that requires time to articulate. We often prioritize being economic in our storytelling, which is indeed generally important, but some stories demand moments of stillness and silence. In this moment of alleged peace, we can see Anne martialing her strength, preparing herself to once again face the vast unfairness of her current circumstances with dignity

“I’m sorry too. I never cared for your feelings.” “I’ll tell you about my past.” Seeing Anne actually reach her breaking point, and be forced to run away just so she can regain her composure, has forced Marilla to recognize the humanity and strength of this girl. Even if she doesn’t appreciate Anne’s passion for fantasy, she can certainly respect the strength that keeps her face unmarred by tears in this terrible turn of fate. And with Marilla offering an olive branch, Anne is ready to tell her own story

Anne is eleven, and was born in Nova Scotia, to Walter and Bertha Shirley

“I guess it doesn’t matter what a person’s name is so long as he behaves himself.” Marilla is now also earnestly answering Anne’s questions, as opposed to scolding her for asking them

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it.” Anne once again reveals she’s quite well acquainted with Shakespeare’s catalog. She is an impressive eleven-year-old

“I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it were named a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” Fair points. Shakespeare, take note

Marilla says “that’s enough about names, tell me more about your parents,” and it only takes Anne about two-thirds of a sentence before she’s busy imagining what their shared house must have been like

“I was so scrawny and tiny and nothing but eyes.” Baby Anne does indeed look deeply ridiculous. She really had to grow into that forehead – in fact, she’s still working on growing into that forehead

Marilla actually cracks a smile at Anne roasting her own features. We’re winning her over!

Anne’s mother died when she was three months old, and her father followed four days after

“You see, nobody wanted me even then. It seems to be my fate.” Given her love of literature, how could it not become her shield? Her childhood was one arbitrary unfairness after another, so her only escape was the fantasy of storytelling, and the comforting idea that her own life is a story still in its early chapters

The shore road does not disappoint. The vision of the sea prompts Anne to continue her life story

She was taken in by Mrs. Thomas, who had a drunken husband and two difficult younger children. The story of Anne’s early childhood is relayed in sepia colors, evoking the sense that we’re reading the storybook Anne wrote of her own life

This leg of her journey goes a long way towards explaining why she seems so mature for her age. She didn’t really get to have a childhood in the first place – her childhood was spent taking care of even younger children. She’s had to learn to be self-sufficient from the start

After her husband’s death, Mrs. Thomas handed Anne off to Mrs. Hammond. Not only has she never had a true home, she’s also suffered continuous rejection from her temporary homes, all leading up to the final rejection of Green Gables

Anne may not appreciate her red hair, but it sure is useful for highlighting her within these otherwise sepia compositions

“I like babies in moderation, but twins three times in succession is too much”

After two years, Mr. Hammond died in turn, and Anne ended up at the orphanage. She may not like talking about it, but she has certainly experienced some storybook hardship of her own

Without anyone who actually wanted her, Anne was essentially raised by her parents’ books

“I know they meant to be good to me. And when people mean to be good to you, you don’t mind very much when they’re not quite always.” The sanctuaries and rationalizations she has been forced to adopt for her own peace of mind are heartbreaking

And Done

Well, the die has been cast. I don’t think Anne could have done a better job of presenting her case than through regaling Marilla with her life story, in spite of her initial hesitance. Anne’s fanciful imaginings mean little to Marilla, but the actual hardship of her life story is concrete and sympathetic, a series of disappointments that naturally cast Marilla as the latest person to break her heart. And given the actual substance of her story, how could Anne do anything but retreat into fiction, with its ordered narratives and promises of salvation? With her fate in Marilla’s hands, it is now up to the grumpiest Cuthbert to write Anne a happier ending.

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By admin