The first time I watched ‘Gone With the Wind’ I absolutely hated it. I didn’t even manage to make it through the whole movie, such was the intensity of my dislike. I thought Scarlett was irritatingly helpless and impossibly girly, while I considered Rhett Butler to be a bit sleazy and of little consequence.
As a teenager who knew everything I was convinced this movie was a total waste of my time and I had absolutely no idea what anyone saw in it. I strongly doubted whether I would EVER bother to give the film another go … at least that was the case until a few months ago when I spotted the blu-ray for sale. From that point on it seemed that the walls of resistance I’d built up over the years slowly started to crumble and fall. A little weekend shopping expedition last week finally saw ‘Gone With the Wind’ come home with me.
In thinking on it now, the reasons I hated the film the first time around probably had a lot to do with where I was at in my life. Most likely it was simply due to being a teenager – I didn’t want to like something just because everyone else liked it, I don’t think I properly understood the character of Scarlett, and I simply could not fathom why anyone would indulge in a film clearly dedicated to romantic fripperies.
What a difference a few years (and a more mature perspective) can make…
Apart from gaining respect for the character of Scarlett and the incredible manipulative skills she possesses, I was stunned by the incredible spectacle of this film – a classic in the very truest sense, which perfectly captures a certain time and place. Another reason I adored this film was discovering the appeal of Rhett Butler … oh my! Such an interesting package of a man – masculine, charming, confident and driven by his love of one woman. Be still my beating heart …
Watching the film in two parts given its total running time of 233 minutes, the take home message for me from the film up to intermission was the clever use of contrasts both in plot and in characters. The film opens with scenes of indulgence and dealing with the kind of problems that only ever become recognised as problems when you’re young and living a life of ease – issues like not always being the centre of attention, who you’re going to dance with, or loving someone who is already promised to another. While the start of the film illustrates a life of plenty, the close of the first half draws a sharp contrast, with Scarlett facing tremendous hardships and having to overcome them alone.
There is also a wonderful balance between character types – Scarlett’s selfishness is counteracted by Melanie’s benevolence, Ashley’s quiet persona is an interesting contrast for Rhett’s commanding presence. The drama unfolding throughout the first half of the film from both a historical and a human perspective certainly dragged me into the world of ‘the South’ and reminded me of what a silly teenager I must have been.