Directed by Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola’s latest film carries her typical dreamy style but puts it in direct contrast with the situation that unfolds in front of us. Despite the fact we don’t see any bloodshed, or any battle scenes at all, we are subtly reminded of the stakes at play. The most obvious being the wounded soldier from the Northern Union who the Southern belles take into their girl’s school to to heal his wounds; but there are also more subtle hints, like many short shots of children on the balcony with a magnifying scope, or the distant rumbling of artillery.
And to that point, both the appropriately minimal soundtrack and especially the sound design are brilliant, not just the the sound of war in the back-ground, but the sound of everything. This is a quiet movie, and the sound of rustling feet running amongst the bush or the sound of nature ignoring the war add to the immersion.
The juxtaposition of Copolla’s film goes further, as again what unfolds is surrounded by beautiful shots of light filtering through dense forests, immaculately shot candle-lit dinners and the flowing, period-appropriate gowns of the women. All this on-the-surface beauty though is masking a situation that is slowly boiling and ever-evolving.
Unfortunately, this story isn’t very engrossing, nor are the female characters (which of course is nearly the entire cast), and all this is almost certainly due very noticeable omissions from the original film.
These omissions are particularly noteworthy, as this film seems to be the pinnacle of political correctness, in our immature, childish world where being ‘offended’ is some sort of personal right.
Firstly, the slave who played a not-so-insignificant role in the original film is thrown away with a single line. What happened to the slaves is asked early on? What indeed?
“They ran away.”
More important though is Martha’s true, demented reasons for her cold nature. Here, they are entirely dispensed with, and despite some fine subtleties in her acting, Kidman is less than a shadow of the character that she is portraying. Apart from Dunst and Fanning, the rest of the girls are barely heard from either, but all the characters are thin and suffer from the extraordinary amount of material cut out.
As the Colonel wins a small amount of affection, he asks to shave, but even this scene is pathetic in comparison to the original, again omitting any line that might cause one ounce of offence. This is made more noticeable considering the 2017 film borrows so many scenes and dialogue from the original. To a detrimental effect given the large amount of narrative that has been dropped.
Once he loses the beard he looks like a different man. Suddenly the women of the house are making sly comments to each other about how they are dressed; how they are wearing jewellery for the first time in years. This is nothing new at all; we are watching the original film dressed to look pretty, without the power of the original characters. This film prefers to linger, far too often it must be said, on sunlight filtering through trees.
True, the dinners the Colonel begins to receive invitations to are a treat to watch, as again a lot lies in the subtlety of the work by Kidman and Dunst. A slight glance, a line delivered with just a pinch of venom. Elle Fanning is also great as the older of the young girls, realising her own sexuality. But yet again, when compared to the original, this part of the plot is skinnier than a starving greyhound, and therefore has next to no impact. Nor do said dinner scenes, as the tension between characters is simply bare.
The dark ending leaves us pondering, wondering if either party truly came out on top in this psychological war. But a more pertinent question lingers; why this film, in this manner? Stripped of nearly all the elements that gave the original an unsettling and unique atmosphere, this is an extremely tame art film with seemingly no message at all; unless that message is that both men and women can be equally horrible. Which isn’t really a revelation, is it? One can’t imagine such a classic film being remade in such a manner if the surname Coppola wasn’t attached to it.
Pretty to look at, and not much else unless you are honed in on the subtle nature of it all. Which at even only 94 minutes takes some effort. Go watch the original again and save yourself the pain of sitting through this politically correct bullshit, not to mention a story we already know.
2 beers out of a sixer.
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