Sunday, February 17, 2008

Atonement (the movie, not the book)

Just saw the Oscar nominated movie Atonement. Nominated for 7 Oscars including 'best motion picture' and 'best supporting actress'.

If that's the best movie of the year, I'm glad I didn't make it out to the cinema much in 2007.

There will be spoilers here. Sorry.

I should state here that I haven't read the book. So I'm judging the film on its own merits. And the main merits are a great supporting cast and James McAvoy. Both actresses who played Briony aged 13 and aged 18 were great. But Keira was wooden.

But the main issues I have with the film are:
  1. There is no way that Robbie would be so stupid as to send the wrong letter. No way. I can understand how it could have been written, but nobody - having written that letter - would calmly fold it and place it at the side of the desk. Or, if the letter had been left undestroyed, there is no way that he would have sent it without checking. No way. Totally unbelievable.
  2. The whole bit in France, before Robbie gets to the beach, is utterly pointless and does not advance the story. I was so bored by it.
  3. And the film jumps about in time quite unnecessarily. One scene happens, the next was '3 weeks earlier', then suddenly 4 years have passed, then we jump again. Basically this suggests to me that if the story was told linearly that it wouldn't be very interesting.
  4. And everyone dies. I know the tragedy is a classic literary form, but I've never really understood it. Where is the entertainment in there? Basically, crap things happen to a bunch of people because somebody made a mistake and then they die. The end.
So you'll have noticed that I didn't like it much. When I watch a film I want to relate to characters in it, I want to like them, I want to care what happens to them. The only character in there I cared about was Robbie, and it was clear from the outset that only crap things were going to happen to him. To be honest, I could have given up watching at any point, but I thought I may as well watch until the crucial mistake in the middle to see how it would happen. And then I was past half way and thought I may as well watch to the end. Wish I hadn't.

Go on, tell me I'm wrong...



At 4:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spleen-venting alert!
Look, I have major problems with this film...not least Keira. And that impressive but unecessary tracking shot on the beach that so many rave about that just serves to scream 'Look how clever I am - give me awards....!' Comapare with the great cinematography in "Jesse James " for example, and weep.
The stuff about everybody dying...well, just get over it. It's the ultimate statistic - it happens to all of us, and if all we want is entertainment to help us forget that, then let's just watch Tellytubbies for the rest of our lives. I have no problem with pure escapism, but come on....
And does everything have to advance the story? Sometimes it's worth just lingering. Imperefect all creation necessary? In the strictest sense, do we have to have it all? (Don't answet that as a scientist, you know the point I'm making, I hope). But we do have it, because sometimes it's good just to explore, revel, get to grips with, tackle stuff because it is there. Stories of all sorts create a world - not everything in the world created for the story serves the story as such, but it's good to have some of the stuff there. The problem comes when the director/writer/whoever doesn't know the difference. Granted, this director is very overrated - but one thing Ian McEwen can never be accused of (and I know the book is a seperate discussion, but just making a point..) is wasting breath.
The ending of film & book is open to accusations of cheating...but if you don't believe that Robby couldn't send that note, then you don't live in the world I do where peopel sends texts or emails or letters to the wrong person....and just watch the consequences spiral. Ask Shane Warne, for example.
Look, this is a massively overrated film, but I just quibble with some of the reasons you give.
Love ya.
Spleen vented. Now tell me I'm wrong...
Dave M

At 4:48 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

No, you're not wrong. I only expressed opinions, not facts. You can't be wrong with an opinion.

But. It is much easier to inadvertantly send a wrong e-mail, than to type rude words on a typewriter, carefully fold the letter, lay it carfully beside the typewriter and then send it in place of a hand written and unfolded note.

Yes, the beach shot was just eye candy and scream-worthy.

Do all scenes have to advance the story? No, not really. But there has to be some point to their inclusion. I suppose you could argue that the whole France bit was valid as art because it provoked an emotional response, or some such, but I'm afraid my only response to the discovery of all those dead French folk lying in a field was 'oh look, dead French folk, why are they there?'

Roll on May and the start of the blockbuster season ;o)

At 5:05 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

Oh, and I'm not sure I approve of nominating a 14 year old for a 'best supporting actress' Oscar. Yes, she was great, but at such a young age the honour will almost certainly go to her head and she'll go off the rails...

At 9:37 am, Blogger Mrs McNicol said...

The film was pretty good, especially considering how excellent the book was - I thought they'd have struggled harder to get the scope right.
But the book is far far better. And is really all about Briony's perception of her own existence which is the cool bit which doesn't really translate to the screen.
Sorry. Am jibbering.

At 10:27 am, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

No need to apologise for hormones. You are about to give birth some week soon, after all. How's the maternity leave going anyway?

I'd wondered if that was the case about Atonement. The film is not really about Briony, its about the two 'star crossed lovers' who're destined not to be together. If the book is all about Briony, then it makes more sense, but that didn't translate to the screen at all.


At 11:43 am, Blogger Mrs McNicol said...

Briony wonders if existing is as intense an experience for everyone else as it is for her. She plays around with thoughts to do with decisions and actions and free will and control and stuff. But it is all thoughts.
And apparently Keira didn't read the book until after they'd made the film - and she realised there was a maternally sisterly side to thingmy she never knew there was supposed to be - that's why she portrayed her as a bit of a wooden cum cold fish. But there's a lesson there to the actors.
Then again, winona did read dracula before filming Dracula - but it didn't stop them getting it horribly wrong either...

At 5:25 pm, Anonymous patrick said...

Atonement looked and felt a lot like Pride and Prejudice, impeccable setting, acting and dialogue.

A bit depressing toward the end, but over all very well done.

side note: i wonder if Briony's vocabulary is realistic for a British 13 year old?


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