Sunday, October 9, 2011

Atonement

By Sati. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , , , ,
(123 min, 2007)
Plot: Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit. Based on the British romance novel by Ian McEwan.
Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Ian McEwan (novel), Christopher Hampton (screenplay)
Stars: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Brenda Blethyn

 
Come Back
"Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell's despair."
- William Blake

War. The most devastating force, shredding any source of hope to pieces, slaughtering, bathing the surroundings in blood from the beginning of the world. Where innocent die, where all that is good vanishes, where bravery and heroism are nothing comparing to destruction and havoc left behind.

Love. The emotion that builds the importance, filled with passion, lust, the feeling that has been pushing people towards the most extreme actions from the beginning of our race. The force that inspires the best and also the worst in people.
„Atonement” is one of the most devastating movies ever made. Not only because war abolishes love and leaves nothing but guilt and crashing pain behind, but also because viewer's emotions are cruelly treated by the story, by the director and most of all by the construction of the film.
The movie has 3 main characters – Cecilia, young, beautiful, rich girl, Robbie poor but ambitious man in love with her and Briony, Cecilia's sister, gifted storyteller and a girl of amazing imagination. A chain of coincidences, badly misinterpreted events and Briony's young age and lack of experience leads to the separation of Cecilia and Robbie, right after they both realize they love each other. Crime, prison and war enter. Briony's accusation, as the girl gains perspective slips farther and farther away from the truth, as young lovers separation keeps them distant. Cecilia waits for Robbie, Robbie waits for war to end and Briony waits for atonement and absolution, sadly, the latter is not destined to be granted to her.

The movie is stunningly beautiful – it is filled with so many breathtaking shots If I ever did a list of the most amazingly looking films, this would definitely be in first 5. The cinematography is so subtle, so suggestive and atmospheric the movie takes you in and holds you through the whole run time. All of this is combined with wonderful set pieces, great art direction and fantastic costumes – Keira Knightley's green dress is already one of the most recognizable dresses in the history of the cinema and I'm sure one day it will be voted the most amazing and beautiful costume ever worn by an actress.

Academy award-winning soundtrack by Dario Marianelli is surely one of the most superb soundtracks ever created. Not only some tracks like 'The Half Killed' and 'Elegy for Dunkirk' bring tears to eyes by their sheer beauty and by resurrecting the memory of the scenes, the typewriter used all over the pieces is a brilliant move. It sets the pace for the tracks, the pace for the scenes and ultimately the movie, and given that the note that Robbie writes for Cecilia is the key element here and whole story deals with storytelling - the author plays the viewer with how the script is built - that was so clever of Marianelli to include that haunting and distressing motive. It is most triumphantly used in the track „With my own eyes” and „Come Back” when music abruptly goes into wedding melody – the effect is extremely powerful especially combined with Briony's discovery in that particular scene.
When I saw the movie for the first time I cried immensely during last 10 minutes. Not even because the story moved me so much when I was watching the film. The last 10 minutes are so emotionally wrecking, that can only be compared with execution scene from „Braveheart” or the farewell for Oscar Schindler. The tragic fates of Cecilia and Robbie are heartbreaking as they were for most of the film, but the way the viewer is given hope, is given the happy ending and then finds out it was all a lie is just excruciatingly hurtful. To see this unveil on screen, until this moment hidden under the coat of shocking twist ending, is really shaking experience. No matter how many times I see the film, I always end up in tears. And this is all because of brilliant, genius illusion the director and the screenwriter so meticulously created – there are tons of more beautiful and more moving love stories than Cecilia's and Robbie's but only their confronts the romantic dream with brutal reality. To see them only meet once after the tragic night, to realize they only shared three kisses, to know they have waited for each other all this time and the only thing their found was meaningless death, to see their lifeless corpses, stripped off any romanticism and glory is truly tragic. The fact Robbie dies right before being evacuated in Dunkirk and Cecilia is killed in bombing during The Blitz is only making matters more saddening.

And then that leaves us with horrible discovery – with Briony's elusive atonement that can only lead to beautiful lie, without any chance for real redemption. There is no one left to forgive her, there is no way she can give those two a chance, life, love again in real world, at least. As the title suggests it is ultimately a story about a girl whose one line changed many lives, covered them in sorrow, regret and hurt and no matter what she does, no matter how much she wants to take It back, she cannot change what she did. Briony attempts to atone by working as a nurse, dealing with dying, hurt people every single day, helping fellow nurses and late at night looking for shelter in her changed memories and imagination. Why did she accuse Robbie? Was it because she had a crush on him? Was it because she envied her sister? Was it because she truly thought he is capable of such crime? A little bit of all.

13 year old couldn't possibly understand the chain of events happening around her – the word 'cunt' (Track “Cee, you and Tea” is clever play of words) Robbie uses whilst writing a letter for Cecilia he never intents to show her, the intimate situation she sees her sister and Robbie engaging in library, the scene by the fountain – it all leads her to believe Robbie is harassing her sister. Later on when her cousin is raped, Briony's vivid imagination convinces her she saw Robbie doing that.
Cecilia cannot forgive her, Robbie goes to jail, his mother, which later on he “sees” nearby the battlefield is devastated. Everything is shattered because of one person's testimony.

The movie's most impressive scene is the aftermath of Dunkirk battle, filmed in one shot – that one shot, which lasts around 5 minutes shows cruelty and absurdity of war, bravery of soldiers, ridiculous waste of man and animals, the ultimate destruction and massacre. The ultimate hell innocent man was sent to, the one he will never escape from.
Saoirse Ronan plays the role of young Briony and she is simply unforgettable – not only because of her unique looks and huge, beautiful blue eyes but because of the force and maturity of her Academy Award nominated performance. She is fantastic here and she leaves Knightley, who is still very good, way behind her. Keira manages to create interesting character, passionate and strong, I didn't expect something that good from her. Romola Garai received rave reviews for her performance of older Briony's but she was omitted during award season. I loved her subtle work, she was absolutely fantastic in the scene where Briony begs her sister and Robbie for forgiveness – that whole scene is pure perfection – the way actors are basically torn apart by their emotions and Cecilia stops Robbie from hurting Briony by calling him to her is something so filled with passion and brilliant directing no movie goer can forget that scene. James McAvoy as wrongfully accused Robbie is fantastic – all his emotions hide beneath his skin, as if they were ready to come out on surface at any moment. He communicates so much by so little – for example in the scene where Robbie sees corpses of slaughtered schoolgirls which clearly reminds him of Briony, her innocence and the fact what she did cannot be judged with simple right or wrong.
The movie is not easy – it is very disturbing, thought-provoking and moving. It is hands down one of the most impressive love stories I've seen – it's complicated, the characters are not easy to judge, the visuals are seductive and the music is legendary. One of the best movies of last decade.

95/100

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