The unattainable Mr Stevens (he shields himself using ordinary objects as a tool to create a physical distance)

In-depth study of Stevens personality and barrier objects (The remains of the day).

Anthony Hopkins – The remains of the day

Mr Stevens pays maniacal attention to his duties as a butler. He is meticulous and impeccable at all times and nothing escapes his expert eyes. He never takes off his butler suit, even in private.

He sets the table down to the tiniest detail, his focus is dignity and lack of external emotions. To achieve perfection he sacrifices his private life until an external factor comes to upset his routine: is the new housekeeper, Miss Kenton, a young woman who, day by day, develops an emotional attachment to him.

He perceives Miss Kenton as threatening and intrusive especially when she invades his private time by entering the room bringing flowers to brighten the parlor.

He is frightened because Miss Kenton might raise emotions and distract him from his duties, so he admits that he places his thoughts elsewhere while she chatters away.

In fact, although they always are “Mr. Stevens” and “Miss Kenton” to one another, the pair develop strong feelings for each other without stating them directly.

His restraint prevents him from revealing his feelings to Miss Kenton but maybe he’s not even aware that he loves her.

This undeclared, compelling romance wears down Miss Kenton, who craves his love, threatening to wed another but he denies his feelings and he always wears his mask made of a proper inscrutable facade.

He always knows what he is doing, he knows if he is allowed to talk or if he just has to serve at the table but Miss Kenton is unpredictable and often disrupts his plans forcing him to batten down the hatches.

So he puts barriers to their closeness to keep the distance, but what are the main physical obstacles between the two protagonists?

The desk, the window, the keyhole and the smoke of his cigar.

The desk is the place behind which he hurries to seek shelter when she comes too close. It also reminds the formal nature of their relationship as butler and housekeeper and his highest position than she at Darlington Hall.

The window is the glass barrier that allows him to look at her when she leaves the house.

The keyhole is the slot through which he looks at her secretly.

The thick smoke of the cigar is a ruse to keep her at a safe distance and he often puffs smoke towards her while speaking.

Hopkins makes his character’s vulnerability visible in the eyes, and in the smallest of gestures but his attitude remains professional and detached.

Anthony Hopkins, as well as Emma, is able to give his best in the speechless scenes, they are both able to speak with their eyes and their facial expressions better than any other actor in the world.

Stevens shows no emotion but we can feel his suffering when he gazes at the departing Miss Kenton from the window.

Actually Mr Stevens is extremely attracted to Miss Kenton and he constantly stifles his desire for her. The audience perceive his inner turmoil, feeling sorry for him. His heartbroken expression at Miss Kenton’s harsh words and the wounded pride written on his face when she later apologizes, always bring tears to my eyes because I feel his despair despite his usual exterior coldness.

Mr Stevens, as he listens to Miss Kenton’s hurtful words and shows imperturbability while he’s dying inside
Mr Stevens during Miss Kenton’s apology speech

The moment they fail to declare their love they miss the last chance for happiness and even in that moment, when she goes over the desk and reaches him behind it and they are so close that their faces almost touch, he raises a hand, as desperate defense, to protect himself from a dreaded kiss and he brings back the arm by his side only when she has left the room releasing him from his fears.

Although they are in love with each other, their feelings will never lead to engagement: their chance is lost, Miss Kenton cannot overcome the barriers created by Mr Stevens, the erected wall is saved forever.

In the last picture the flowers she brought stand out overbearing ironically towards him almost to blame his inadequacies becoming the umpteenth fence that separates him from life and love.

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