Two of England's classic poets, Samuel Coleridge (Linus Roache) and William Wordsworth (John Hannah) are best of friends and become collaborators during the turbulent era of the French Revolution, when the spirit of democracy, personal liberty and the distant roar of anti-slavery all swirl to combine into a potent political atmosphere in the staunchly anti-French establishment of England. Coleridge and his new wife, Sara (Samantha Morton), move to a quiet country cottage in Somerset, and are followed by Wordsworth, accompanied by his sister Dorothy (Emily Woof); the latter is both an inspiration and a potentially destructive element in the fourway relationship. Jealousy breeds, the friends grow distant and competitive and Coleridge seeks help for his addiction. When Coleridge discovers Wordsworth has betrayed him, the bonds are forever cut and Wordsworth is disgraced.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It begins with Wordsworth (John Hannah) offering Coleridge (Linus Roache) a little opium to steady his nerves (then retracting the offer when he sees his fellow poet and friend has already had some) and is peppered with poetry from these two young and conflicted English poets at the turn of the 19th century. Stylishly designed and shot, Pandaemonium is both biopic and relationship drama, as the two men navigate their own and society's turbulence, in the company of Coleridge's wife Sara (Samantha Morton) and Wordsworth's sister Dorothy (Emily Woof).
When she says "We need an epic of nature in the language of liberty," Dorothy sets off the chain reaction that leads to the collaboration of the two poets - but which ultimately ends in conflict. The film is a beautifully realised journey of idealism, literary longing, emotional entanglements, passionate conflicts and opium-induced trips that are powerfully imagined and knitted into the creation of some of Coleridge's soaring poetry (notably The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.
Excellent performances from the entire cast bring the characters to life in an illuminating story, set against the political background of an almost unrecognizable England. It is fascinating for anyone with an interest in literature and in human nature. Acutely observed, the screenplay opens up the hearts and minds of its subjects with economy. Director Julien Temple, whose strong, surehanded documentaries include The Filth and The Fury (about The Sex Pistols), has shown he can take factual material and also fashion it into strong drama.
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CAST: Linus Roache, John Hannah, Samantha Morton, Emily Woof, Emma Fielding, Andy Serkis, Samuel West
PRODUCER: Nick O'Hagan
DIRECTOR: Julien Temple
SCRIPT: Frank Cottrell Boyce
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Lynch
EDITOR: Niven Howie
MUSIC: Dario Marianelli
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Laurence Dorman
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Polyphony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 14, 2005