Note: A post titled A Work Of Art was originally published on Some Photoblog in June 2021. I have come to a decision to delete and republish it with some changes to the text and expanded title (the pictures remain the same as in the original post). I explain why below.
This painting hangs in Manchester Art Gallery (quite high up, hence the awkward angle).
It’s Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse. Waterhouse was an English painter of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and Hylas and the Nymphs is one of his best known works.
The Gallery’s label:
(Look, I don’t know. Maybe the nymphs were just like: dude, you’re trespassing. It doesn’t have to be that deep. Waterhouse can hardly be blamed for some femme fatale shit, when it’s a story from the Greek mythology. Also, I like Pre-Raphaelites. I like nice things. I’m a visual person.)
The image below is a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth film in the series, released in 2011, directed by Rob Marshall:
Okay, so you have to squint a bit. But you can see it.
The two stunningly beautiful people are Philip and Syrena, played by Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Syrena is a mermaid, not a nymph (and there are no water lilies, obviously), but she does look like something Waterhouse would have painted. He seemed to have had a thing for women of mythology and legends, and bodies of water. (Waterhouse, get it?) Philip is no Argonaut, he’s a missionary, which is why he wears that cross, but he was on a ship. Which is, I suppose, a logical occurrence in a movie centred on pirates. On Stranger Tides is probably the weakest in the series, but it’s still worth watching for these two, if nothing else. Their romance would surely inspire artists and poets alike. There was something so pure about it, stupid as the word is. I love Philip and Syrena, they own my heart.
*spoilers* Interestingly, much like Hylas, Philip was never seen again either. His fate is a bit ambiguous, as he’s injured, likely quite critically, and the above scene is the moment just before he and Syrena kiss and she pulls him into the water. It was established earlier in the movie that a mermaid’s kiss can heal, and she does tell him: “I can save you, just ask,” though he doesn’t ask, he says he wants only forgiveness, as he blames himself for her capture. She kisses him anyway (get in there, girl!), and the last we see of them is when they float underwater. But I’m positive Philip didn’t die, the reason why neither him nor Syrena appear again is that The Powers That Be decided not to use them any more. *end spoilers*
So, now for the controversial part. My original June 2021 post was a silly entry about how film snobs need to get over themselves and step on a Lego, because the similarity between the Philip and Syrena scene and the Waterhouse painting proved that Pirates of the Caribbean films were a work of art. Not that I no longer believe this to be true (because the similarity cannot be denied), but it is a frivolous matter compared to… well, everything surrounding the lead actor of the franchise.
However, I maintain that the Pirates movies don’t necessarily have to revolve around the character of Jack Sparrow because they still have a lot going for them that is not Jack Sparrow. (In fact I think the later instalments should have reduced his role). Adventure, humour, horror, romance, and a lot of swashbuckling action. There are plenty of other great characters; the first trilogy truly belongs to Will and Elizabeth. I mean, it’s Elizabeth who becomes the Pirate King. Not Jack. There’s Tia Dalma and Davy Jones. Weatherby Swann (Elizabeth’s father), James Norrington, even Cutler Beckett. And the films always nail their romances. Will and Elizabeth, Philip and Syrena, and Henry and Carina in the fifth film. And I think Geoffrey Rush’s performance as Hector Barbossa is just as iconic as Johnny Depp’s Jack. The scene in The Curse of the Black Pearl “you’d better start believing in ghost stories, you’re in one” where he’s revealed to be a skeleton in the moonlight, is so bone chilling and so, well, iconic! I also love Elizabeth and Will’s wedding in the third film, At World’s End. On a ship, in the middle of a battle, Elizabeth shouts to Barbossa: “Barbossa, marry us!” To which he responds: “I’m a little bit busy at the moment!” But he nevertheless marries them, while all three of them are fighting their enemy.
Plus Ragetti and Pintel are a hilarious duo.
All that and the theme tune (composed by Hans Zimmer, no less) is the best.
On Stranger Tides was Sam Claflin’s first film. You know how I feel about the guy.
In conclusion, Pirates of the Caribbean films are a lot of fun. But if you feel you can’t watch them any more, that’s okay too. And if you’ve never liked them anyway, then it doesn’t matter.
I wonder if Waterhouse would have been a fan?