Film industry has grown since it first appeared and the way that a story is told has also altered. In 2001, Robert Altman and Bob Balaban’s idea of a murder mystery set in the 1930’s came to the big screen. This movie is called Gosford Park. This movie reveals certain aspect of ideology, such as the role of men and women and the different social classes.
The story of this movie unfolds in an English country mansion and is set in November 1932. Sir William McCordle and his wife, Sylvia, invite family and friends over to their mansion for a weekend of shooting. As the McCordle’s guests and their servants arrive and get settled, gossip evolves in the entire mansion. As they enter the McCordle country mansion for, what is to be a weekend of shooting and gossip, little do they know that a murder plot arises and will soon take place.
The first issue that will be discussed about ideology is the role of men and women. The viewers may notice the differences of the roles of men and women, whether we look at the individuals, who are part of the upstairs or the downstairs. In the “upstairs”, the men have the jobs, take care of all the financial affairs and are, in different ways, revealed as the superior sex. As for the women, they are allowed to spend their days not doing much, which is probably one of the reasons why they seem to gossip more than the men do or may even ask one of their servants to tell them what are people gossiping the most about in the “downstairs”. The women are considered as the other. Something that is very interesting is that, even when they are not working, the men don’t seem to be doing much either.
As for the downstairs, it is quite the opposite of the upstairs. Both sexes are working for most of the day and have not much time to be doing much else. Each individual has a specific job. Each job has a certain position that is seen in the upstairs. For example, the lady’s maid has a higher status than the maid. There are more jobs and more people needed in the downstairs than we might normally expext or see in other movies that is set in this kind of place. Though each servant may have one specific job, they have several different tasks that they have to do. Let’s take Mary Maceachran, Lady Trentham’s lady’s maid. During the movie, we see her accomplishing several different tasks. We see her bring Lady Trentham’s breakfast, washing her clothes, sowing her dresses, and so on.
Not only do they have different tasks, but also in this kind of occasion they may serve more than one person. Just after they all find out that Henry Denton, some gather together and Mr. Jennings, the butler, redistributes some of the guests’ to some of the servants. Jennings assigns Mr. Weissman to Arthur and Robert Parks, Lord Stockbridge’s valet, has to see to Lord Stockbridge and Mr. Novello. Of course, in some scenes, we do see the servants relaxing a little, but they can do so, because there doesn’t seem to be much to tidy up. For example, when Ivor Novello begins to sing and play the piano, the servants stop to listen behind the doors. Some are even in the stairs that lead to the servants’ quarter and are listening to the music.
The second theme that will be discussed is the social classes. This movie may not examine the problems that the lower classes may have, such as in Ford’s “Grapes of Wrath” or Mike Leigh’s “Life is Sweet”, but “Gosford Park” does show us a bit both sides of what this kind of household was like. It doesn’t simply examine the upper class or simply the lower class. A scene that seems interesting that looks at where some of the servants come from is one night where some of the servants are having dinner and Henry Denton asks the others how many of them have a parent or both in service and if that was what influenced to do the same. Many did, few didn’t and one knew what his did, but wasn’t influenced by it, because he grew up in an orphanage. We later find out that his father was Sir William, played by Michael Gambon, and his mother is in fact Mrs. Wilson, played by Helen Mirren.
A sentence that has really stuck with me is when Elsie and Mary are in the bathroom and Elsie asks Mary “Why do we have to spend our lives living through them?’ In a way, these people do spend their lives through their employers and some of them don’t necessarily have to. At times, we can see that some of the upper class has very little respect for the servants and that some servants don’t have a lot of esteem for their employers. In one scene, we see Barnes, one of the servants, comes out one of the many rooms of the upstairs. Barnes has the time to do a few steps when Anthony Meredith comes out and hands out to Barnes a pair of socks. Barnes apologizes to Meredith, which can make us believe that he forgot them. Then, Barnes continues walking. While he’s going back to his room, Meredith starts complaining about how Sir William would try something like this and, while still walking, Barnes calls Meredith “Short arse”, almost under his breath.
Despite the fact that this kind of movie has been done before, “Gosford Park” can make us reflect on our own lives. For instance, many characters have something to hide about something in their past. Jean-Luc Goddard once said, “Each movie has a beginning, middle and end, but not necessarily in that order.” Though, the last shot suggest something a bit different. It may imply that this movie has no definite ending.