In the movie “The Painted Veil”, which is a story surrounded with love and romance, there are three very different yet interesting couple relationships.
Kitty and Walter Fane are the protagonists. At the beginning of the movie, Kitty was a self- centered woman. She agreed to marry Walter just to get away from her demanding mother as soon as possible. As for Walter, he was a bacteriologist and loved to diffuse himself in his job. He proposed to Kitty knowing that Kitty did not love him. His rash action of getting married with Kitty planted a deep problem in their relationship.
However, after staying in Mei-Tan-Fu for a while, slight changes started to happen to them. Kitty, with the help and encouragement of Mother Superior, started to notice the soft side of Walter. Also, giving a helping hand to the orphanage sparked Kitty’s compassion to help the needy. Walter, started to forgive Kitty and involve Kitty in his work and life. Seeing Kitty volunteering in the orphanage, Walter realized that she was not the shallow, selfish person he thought she was. Their changed perception of each other and deeper mutual understanding helped their marriage to bloom in the end.
Charlie and Dorothy Townsend appear as a popular couple in the movie. Charlie, a well-known British vice consul, is a charmer and womanizer. He knows how to please women with his sugar-coated words. That is partly why Kitty fell for Charlie. Unlike Walter, Charlie is a fun, sociable person, which fed Kitty’s loneliness. Being a charmer, Charlie has come across with many women. Dorothy knows his affairs but does not seem to show any concern. This may be because “she believed that the women whom fell for Charlie were all second rated” as recalled by Waddington. Also, Charlie mentioned that Dorothy would never divorce him, which may either mean that Dorothy loves Charlie whole heartedly and does not care about him cheating on her, or Dorothy does not want to give up her fame and status which her husband has earned throughout over the years. This shows that their relationship is political in nature since it was not rooted in love.However it also would not break easily due to the fact that their self-interest may be harmed if their relationship breaks. For personal gains and mutual “benefit”, they will stay together as a couple.
Unlike the Townsends, Waddington and the Manchu woman is was a true-hearted couple. They love each other whole-heartedly. Waddington saved the Manchu woman’s life during the revolution and thus the Manchu woman fell in love with Waddington. Waddington once asked her “why did she love him” and her answer was that Waddington was a good person. Their love was simple yet strong. They do not not love each other due to their looks or status, but due to their inner qualities.
The relationship between Kitty and Walter in the beginning was fragile because it was not founded on mutual love and understanding. This was a result of their rushing into marriage/their hasty decision to get married and Kitty cheating on Walter. This relationship was a bit like the Townsends since it was not based on love. Kitty aimed to get away from her mother by marrying Walter. This meant that she wanted to get something for herself from this marriage. As for the Townsends, Dorothy would not divorce Charlie because she wants to keep their high social status. Charlie, on the other hand, is not loyal to Dorothy. He may not be satisfied with Dorothy, so he cheated on her many times. He is certain that Dorothy would not divorce him and so he continues his infidelity.
The difference of the two couples is that the marriage between the Townsends could sustain for a long time since both of them merely take what they want from the marriage. However, the relationship between Kitty and Walter develops and undergoes a transformation. Kitty, at first, did not love Walter at all and got married with him due to her eagerness to leave her family. Walter was deeply in love with Kitty and knowing that Kitty cheated on him, he got furious and could not stand the fact. The biggest difference between the two marriages is that the Townsends are consensual, fully knowing what is happening to their relationship while the Fanes were not since it was a one sided relationship when Walter was the only one loving Kitty.
Towards the end of the movie, the relationship between Kitty and Waltermirrors the relationship between of Waddington and the Manchu woman. Waddington and the Manchu woman do not share the same language and race, however, they love each other deeply despite their differences. In the same way, Kitty and Walter let go of the person whom they imagined each other to be and learn to love each other despite the differences. The love between Waddington and the Manchu woman is a crucial reason why the relationship between Kitty and Walter blooms again. Seeing how passionately Waddington and the Manchu woman love each other, Kitty and Walter had a spark in their marriage. They let go of their differences and forgive each other.
As for the difference in the two relationships, Walter fell in love with Kitty’s looks while the Manchu woman fell for Waddington’s virtues. Walter first met Kitty in the party and fell in love with her. Walter’s love at first sight meant that he fell for her due to her looks since he did not even know Kitty’s personality. On the other hand, the Manchu woman fell in love with Waddington since he had saved her. She fell for him due to his virtue and believing that he was a good person. This shows the weak bonding of Kitty and Walter in the beginning which contrasts with the steadfast love they have for each other in the end.
The three relationships are all important to the story. The relationship between the Townsends and Waddington and the Manchu woman give the main couple, Kitty and Walter, a fuller expression. The two less central couple relationships are useful in bringing out the change in the relationship between Kitty and Walter.