The problem with the Russian translation of the title largely reflects the inconsistency and fragmentation of the film itself – no, it doesn’t really talk about Thomas’s literary gift, his relationship with his wife is only dotted, and everything else hopelessly dissolves in the alcoholic fumes of an American bar, becoming just a trifle on background of human tragedy.
Rhys Ifans (most remember him for his hilarious role in the rom-com Notting Hill – and now the actor can be seen in an amusing role in the new Kingsman) – on the contrary, is a real find and the only thing that can somehow rehabilitate the biopic. The Welsh actor wonderfully conveys the image of a restless, impractical, burdened by life, yearning poet, losing his will to live, his interest in what is happening around him. Thomas sees how he becomes a source of income for others and at the same time cannot feed his own family, as if denying her even this, the most practical and soulless act of care. His bitterness towards those into whose hands he fell spreads to everything, his caustic speeches quickly part with questions of the futility of being and turn against the immediate environment, since he cannot reach the metaphysical – and quite personified – sources of many of his misadventures .
The protagonist inflicts severe wounds on others – all indiscriminately, not interested in either them or their reaction. He, who has known everything and everything, appeals not to people, but to images, as if depriving them of their uniqueness – after all, only such an approach to others and to himself can relieve pain and at least somehow rationalize life that hurts him day after day. He who subjugates the word sometimes forgets its power.
Dylan Thomas Ivansa devotes most of the time to an existential Celtic journey to the bottom of a bottle, piercing, pitiful in its helplessness, exposing very different components of human essence. An impeccable “iechyd da” breaks from his tongue, bewitching in its irreducibility to the strict English in which he has succeeded so well. The toasts, marking the thoughts that come to the mind of a person drinking another glass of intoxicant, turned out to be quite witty (especially in the light of recent literary discovery), a singsong Welsh manner of speech, seasoned with Shakespearean quotes – envelops and penetrates into the soul. Only now the fifty-four-year-old actor – with all his skill – cannot recreate on the screen a reflection adequate to the experiences of the thirty-nine-year-old Thomas.
Thomas’s life is irreducible to its final chords, there were a lot of creative insights, inspirations in it – everything that attracted the famous masters of the word – T.S. Eliot, Spender and Grigson – to his still quite youthful writings of Dylan Thomas. The peculiarities of the writer’s physical constitution and the presence of pulmonary diseases that had haunted him since childhood also, no doubt, affected his character. But in the picture, these ailments are presented only as a natural result of unrestrained drunkenness.
Even if one asks such a thankless task as studying the reasons for the death of a poet, one can easily be convinced that alcohol intoxication was not it, no matter how much the filmmakers would like it to be. But the film is relentless and unambiguous in this. And to dilute the feeling of awkwardness, and then indignation from the image of the great mystery – the life and death of a person – in such a short-trendentious form, as it is presented on the screen, neither the ironic play of John Malkovich, nor the freshness of Zasha Mamet can. And without the words of the wife, who learned about the sad outcome, one could also do without, especially taking into account another circumstance, silence about the degree of guilt of the host, which was a fact, not conjecture.
The choice of a biographical genre does not in the least negate the difficulties of reliably displaying on the screen such a phenomenon as life, in all its versatility, the irreducibility of human existence to certain main lines, the absence of a direct connection between actions and consequences in a very large number of cases. And in the case of outstanding personalities – even more so.
Very often, the appearance of the deceased surprises with a discrepancy, the absence of something intangible and at the same time defining, something that until recently familiar features were imbued with. And mechanically following with a camera along the stops of the final segment of a once-full life creates about the same feeling of inconsistency. But that’s not the point. The word remains. A living word, imprinted on a magnetic tape, approved in typographic type in numerous publications and their Russian translations. It is this – and nothing else – that will remain the last. And he will not let the Welsh poet go humbly into the twilight of eternal darkness.