Inspiration: Topsy-Turvy

Jim Broadbent as W.S. Gilbert in Topsy-Turvy

This is probably my favorite 28 seconds in any movie, ever. I only wish it lasted another couple of beats to get the full development of Broadbent’s emotion.

In case you’re not familiar with Topsy-Turvy, it’s a story of the creation of The Mikado by WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Frankly, that’s pretty much the only thing I remember about the film, short of this little clip which affected me so much when I saw it on the big screen at the Michigan Theater more than a decade(!) ago.

Immediately before this clip, Gilbert is in the throes of writer’s block and wandering around his study in his dressing gown, playing with a sword. He sets the sword down, then looks at it and inspiration (for the Orientalist Mikado) arrives.

This is how inspiration works sometimes. You mull, you play, you test, you try, you throw away… and all the time you are still doing the thing, you are still working, you are still making art whether or not it is something that will become the so-called “final” piece.

When inspiration happens, you’ll make that face. I know that I do.