Journal scribblings: Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

I’ve never been a person that believes in God or any other kind of independent force. As a result, I’m fascinated by people who are so confident in God or fate or luck or whatever else that is independent from their own actions that they let it determine the course of their life.

In Gillian Armstrong’s Oscar and Lucinda, there are two believers. In fact, their lives are entirely comprised of blind jumps into the unknown. They not only believe in God, but in chance and fate, willing to constantly put their fortunes on the line for their love of gambling. To Oscar, believing in a God is a gamble in itself – “we bet our life on it!” he says.

Armstrong’s film thrives on the thrill of the unforbidden and the constant threat of falling into the void. There’s a life here that is wild, that is humorous, that sustains the film in an exciting manner despite its languid runtime that is is in excess of two hours. Most of that is contained in the electric partnership of Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes. Oscar and Lucinda are outsiders, two individuals who have spent their whole lives in their own universes. As the narrator (Geoffrey Rush) says fairly early on “Lucinda’s mother knew that she had produced a proud square peg in the full knowledge that from coast to coast there were nothing but round holes”. Oscar is a proud square peg too, having accepted his uniqueness. But being a square peg can be a lonely life. It’s fulfilling, but the moments where one feels that electric, instantaneous connection with another is few and far between, so much so that when it does happen, it’s greeted with absolute excitement and disbelief. When Oscar and Lucinda do find each other, indeed through fate, their immediate connection is not one of romance but understanding. Both are just absolutely ecstatic to have found another person that understands their faith, their love, their obsession. It’s a connection that feels utterly genuine, and one that is addictive to watch.

Rating: 4/5

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