Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Atonement

By Sati. Tuesday, March 15, 2016 ,
Atonement is one of those movies filled with dozens of gorgeous and iconic shots - I'm sure that silhouette of a soldier on the poppy field or Robbie looking at the bodies of dead schoolgirls will get several mentions here. I looked at a bunch of screenshots from the movie, some truly startling, unforgettable images - like Robbie and Cecilia frozen in passion against the bookshelf (echoed again as we see her dead body floating in the tunnel), Cecilia engulfed in flames as Robbie is being taken away or Briony peeking through red curtain. There is so much symbolism hidden in this rich, wonderful and absolutely heart breaking movie. But I chose the shot highlighting a moment, a scene and a performance that I think goes largely under appreciated.

I'm still surprised Saoirse Ronan was the only one who got Oscar nominated for her work here. McAvoy was absolutely outstanding portraying such a passionate man, torn apart between his good nature and the effects of awfulness and injustice of what was done to him. And then we have excellent Keira Knightley who makes her Cecilia so alluring, mysterious and wiser beyond her years. And for me the most affecting moment in this movie - other than the flashback reveal of real fates of Cecilia and Robbie - is the scene where after witnessing the wedding Briony comes over to visit her sister.

There is an outstanding moment here where Robbie lashes out at Briony asking her if she understands what she has done. Cecilia keeps calling onto him to come back to her, only the power of their love being able to stop Robbie's rage at Briony. And then Briony, sounding like a little, fragile girl - unlike how she sounded when we actually saw and heard her as a little girl - tearfully repeats how sorry she is for what she has done, repeats it as a child would, a child that was scolded but in Briony's way of saying these words there is understanding and a sense of atonement.

And then the camera shows us the look on Cecilia's face -


so beautifully captured by Knightley is the hurt, the love and the sadness she feels for her little sister. Cecilia doesn't hate Briony. and in that moment she sees her little sister destined to carry that burden for the rest of her days - that burden of the lives destroyed, tears shed and lovers kept apart because of her words that were spoken. There is such crushing realization in Cecilia's eyes here - that no matter what Briony does, her suffering won't ever go away - the way Knightley managed to portray that and the way the cinematographer Seamus McGarvey caught that moment is not something I'll ever forget. For many Atonement is a war story, for others it's a doomed romance. But there is a painful and eternal bond between sisters portrayed here that is often neglected when talking about that movie - while the script doesn't necessarily capture it well Knightley and Ronan and especially Garai do it beautifully.

(for TheFilmExperience HWYBS series)

14 comments:

  1. That moment is one of the best scenes in the film as I don't think it gets talked about. Especially as I felt that Romola Garai got overlooked for her work in that film as a young woman who knew the truth but was lost in the lie she created as she realized that she caused the damage and any attempts to repair is futile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Garai gave the best out of 3 performances as Briony in the movie. She was fantastic, not that the others weren't but there was just something so real and heartbreaking about her

      Delete
  2. Great post! Atonement is such a gorgeous film, and so heart breaking. My favorite shot is still any time Keira is in that green dress. I'm not sure I've ever seen a dress so stunning in film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that dress! The most stunning dress in movie history for sure!

      Delete
  3. This moment in the film is everything. Solid performances too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love everyone's work in ensemble and that's pretty rare for me

      Delete
  4. Gosh, what a brilliant moment, and a great write up! I really like what you said about the sister relationship, if I had to find a flaw with the film, it would probably be that it didn't explore the relationship between Cecilia and Briony as well as they could have. Still, what a brilliant film!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! I thought Garai and Knightley really did wonders with that aspect of the story in that scene

      Delete
  5. love that you took such a different angle. certainly their sibling relationship is not the most or even the second or third most discussed thing abotu this movie. I think all the performances are brilliant. I remember people being cool on Romola Garai and the time but i think she's bloody fantastic... looking as shellshocked as the soldiers themselves who've seen actual war. It gives you such insight to how much she has punished herself mentally since childhood.

    that robby and cecilia can't forgive her in that scene is really because she doesnt forgive herself.

    (also, yes, Keira is excellent in this film. I think people dont understand her work because she is more stylized than many of her contemporaries but i think she's an incredible actor)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, it is always such a pleasure to be linked on your site and participate in HMWYBS!

      Keira is amazing. She was my choice for the performer of the year in last year's Best and Worst list I compiled - her work in Begin Again, Laggies and especially in Imitation Game was amazing - she is so subtle, so human and so natural in her work, her reactions are always the reactions of actual human beings and even though she looks the same in most of her work it's so easy to buy her as these different women. And she takes on such admirable characters too and always sells them so well - the maturity in Atonement, the rage in Never Let me Go, the kindness in imitation Game. She is fantastic

      Delete
  6. Boy you made me want to rewatch this! I LOVE this film, it's the kind of doomed romance drama that's beautifully told. It might be my fave performance from Knightley and I agree I think the two leads are worthy to be nominated as well as Ronan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's worth rewatching but my God, this one just rips your heart out

      Delete
  7. Such a gorgeous shot and a beautiful post! <3

    ReplyDelete