Wednesday, July 25, 2012
This summer’s movie season brought the English independent film “Hysteria” to theaters. Some Chattanoogans who saw the movie may have recognized a particular actress in the film as Hixson High graduate Kim Criswell.
Criswell played the role of Mrs. Castellari in the romantic comedy/drama. Set in the late 19th century, the film also starred such actors as Hugh Dancy, who plays a young, innovative doctor, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who acts as a sort of women’s rights activist.
The plot, at least partly historically accurate, centers around the flawed Victorian idea that women often suffered from a condition called “hysteria,” rendering them depressed and anxious, among other rather vague symptoms. The cure, according to a leading specialist in women’s medicine, involved a “manual massage.”
“It’s very funny, and women in particular are amused by the film,” Criswell said in a phone interview from her home base in London. “It’s a good anecdote for those people like myself who are a little bit tired of every other big blockbuster film.”
Criswell’s character is an Italian opera singer who visits the “women’s specialist” because she “cannot sing from the sadness.”
“I know the opera world, so it was easy for me to play the part,” said Criswell, who regularly performs in various symphony concerts.
Always a singer and performer, she attended the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music and later appeared in several Broadway plays throughout her career. She said her favorite times these days are spent in the recording studio.
Moving to Chattanooga with her family at a young age, Criswell stayed until she graduated from Hixson High School in 1975. She still fondly recalls her high school mentor and voice instructor, Marea Ransom, saying that this teacher “made a huge difference” in her life and future career.
“Chattanooga’s got a claim on me; it’s a good part of my life and my history,’’ Criswell said. “It’s my hometown without a doubt.”