Enneagram Movie Review: Enchanted April
Enchanted April is the story of a group whose lives are changed by a month spent at a Italian villa. The theme is the redemptive virtue of aesthetics and love - if you’re comfortable with this Fourish conception, you’ll probably enjoy the movie.
In any case, it’s a tightly-focused ensemble study, with heavily typed characters, demonstrating both integration and disintegration of core and wing points, and it manages to be upbeat and believable without becoming sappy or maudlin (to me, anyway).
In the wake of World War One, two unhappy London housewives meet and find that they are both daydreaming about an ad they have read in the paper, soliciting renters for a month at an Italian villa, San Salvatore. They finally work up the courage to secure the rental and face their husbands.
Mellersh Wilkins (3/2) cannot cease talking about his business affairs as a solicitor, even as he attacks the sole at dinner, muttering through the fish bones, "Yes...we can’t arrive at 8:30; we’ll seem too eager...8:45 is too late, they’ll think we don’t care...8:40...mmm, yes, that’s it..."
His wife Lottie (4/3) is overwhelmed by him, but finally manages to blurt out that she’s going away for a month, over his immediate protests.
Gerald Arbuthnot (7/6) writes salacious books, such as "The Sins of Madame Pompadour", under pen names, and makes the most of his author’s receptions in romantic conquests. His wife Rose (4/5) languishes, wishing he would care more for her than for the dubious trappings of fame. Her announcement of her trip to Italy is met with enthusiasm by Gerald, who clearly sees it as an opportunity for more partying.
Together, Rose and Lottie meet the owner of San Salvatore, George Briggs (5/4), a man whose heart is given to his oboe. He is taken with Rose’s classic 4/5 looks (she blushes and remarks, "My husband said I look like a disappointed Madonna") and gentle ways. In his absent-minded reverie, he hands her an opera ticket thinking it is his business card. When she mentions that her husband won’t be joining them, he assumes she was widowed in the recent war.
The two Fours decide to advertise for two other women to join them, to cut the rental cost down to a reasonable sum. They acquire Mrs. Fisher (2/1) and Lady Caroline Desta (2/3). Mrs. Fisher is as rigid and brittle as any unhealthy One, but cannot keep from bragging about how Browning taught her Italian or how Carlyle suffered from headaches during his visits to her household. Lady Caroline (made up in exquisite Louise Brooks style) professes to be anxious to leave behind a life filled with male attention - "grabbers" - and is often unaware of how much she yearns for it. We see her at a last party before she leaves for Italy, encountering Gerald Arbuthnot, who is quite taken with her.
San Salvatore is every bit as aesthetic as one might hope for, stone walls and endless peppery geraniums in ten shades of red and pink and white, refreshed by breezes off the Adriatic. Lottie’s intuition kicks into high gear and she foresees a therapeutic rest for all.
Thinking they have the place to themselves, Rose and Lottie are taken slightly aback to discover Lady Caroline there already. They greet her and react Twoishly, trying to give her the best room ("I’ve already taken it", she replies) and add flowers to it.
At breakfast, they discover Mrs. Fisher also in residence and firmly in the driver’s seat, banging on the gong to summon the help and issuing orders in "the Italian of Dante".
Lady Caroline spends the morning sunning herself in the garden and attracting the attentions of the gardener, then encounters Rose and Lottie as they return, at the frantic call of the gong, to lunch. (In the dining room, Mrs. Fisher tosses down the gong-beater and pronounces, "Lax, Lax!".)
Lady Caroline wants to pass up lunch, citing a headache. Rose, again Twoishly, wants to involve herself in its remedy, but Lottie intervenes and suggests that Lady Caroline probably just wants to be left alone. Lady Caroline brightens and agrees. Over lunch, when Mrs. Fisher inquires about the absence of Lady Caroline, Lottie says in a wonderfully Fourish way, that she knows that Lady Caroline has no headache, because she "saw inside her".
Lottie is the first to feel the therapeutic aesthetics. After only a single day there, she decides to invite her husband to join them. Baffled and depressed, Rose goes off to cry alone as she despairs that her husband would not join her even if invited. Mrs. Fisher is offended by the suggestion of adding a husband to the mix. Lady Caroline can’t understand why she would want him there.
Mellerish does arrive, relishing his wife’s upscale companions and warming to her in the venereal environment. Rose finally decides to summon her own husband.
In the meanwhile, San Salvatore continues to work its magic. The brittle Mrs. Fisher finds herself Fourishly attracted to a set of watercolor paints, reminded of carefree days of her youth, and begins to paint. She finds herself doing without her walking stick. Lotte wears her hair down. Mellerish acts to smooth any rough spots. They bob in the Adriatic, doze in the April sun.
As Rose is anticipating her husband’s arrival, the group is surprised to hear that George Briggs, the owner, is stopping by on route to business in Rome. Still thinking Rose a war widow, he shows interest in her (frustrating Lady Caroline, who is given cause to assess her own expectations of men).
Gerald does arrive at San Salvatore, but questing after Lady Caroline, having wormed her location of her mother. Rose, thinking he has come immediately after her summons, is overjoyed. Gerald is appropriately baffled. When George meets Mr. Arbuthnot, and realizes that she has a living husband, he is visibly deflated.
The entire ensemble is collected for dinner, and they remark about the tonic effects of the villa. Mrs. Fisher has dropped her severe garb for an aesthetic dress, and the women glow with freed-up energy and life. Only George Briggs is saddened, watching Rose with her husband from the side.
After dinner, Lotte finds Lady Caroline depressed at being alone among the two happy couples. She buoys her spirits by suggesting that it’s what’s inside that counts. After Lotte goes off, she encounters a tearful George, who reiterates the sentiment. In a burst of enthusiasm, Lady Caroline reaches out and grabs him.
Lotte and Mellerish look in on Mrs. Fisher, who has mellowed and embraced life in the now rather than staring at her faded photographs in gloomy reverie. Lottie says that she will be good friends with Mrs. Fisher when they return, asserting that "I see it!".
Such a synoptic look at the movie doesn’t begin to suggest the skill with which the character development is carried out. The juxtaposition of the four types among the four women - 2/1, 2/3, 4/3, and 4/5 - allows for a complex and comprehensive mapping of relations between individuals - and here Enchanted April does not fail. I can’t think of a single scene that breaks a character out of type to further the plot.
The movie also demonstrates how typed behavior becomes less noticeable as the individuals integrate. Think of each type moving off the periphery of the enneagram circle and moving toward the center as they integrate, losing their characteristic "feel".
Best of all, the movie wants its characters to blossom and grow, unlike a lot of recent films that glorify confusion or degradation. In an age when health seems a commodity to be purchased like any other, if we can find the vendor who has it, it’s nice to be reminded that we regain it by letting go.