By midlandsmovies, Sep 28 2017 08:58AM
The Beguiled (2017) Dir. Sofia Coppola
Based on the novel of the same name, Sofia Coppola was only the second female to win the Best Director Award at Cannes for this film set at a girl’s school in the Deep South during the American Civil War. With only teacher Edwina Morror (Nicole Kidman) and five students left at the school house, they find and take in Colin Farrell’s injured corporal soldier where the the ladies tend to him in a locked room.
Copolla fills her plantation location with lots of moody silences but these later turn to screams as the repressed women deal with the soldier’s attentions. Cleaning Farrell’s wounds in a scene of sexual/religious tension, the film plays with ideas of femininity and sexuality and its natural light gives the movie authenticity but this results in it being under-lit at times. As a chamber piece, it uses the technical staging of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon by using windows and candles to provide the only in-house lighting, but again, sometimes to a confusingly dark fault.
Critic Tim Robey surmised Barry Lyndon by saying audiences and reviewers railed “against the perceived coldness of Kubrick's style, the film's self-conscious artistry and slow pace” and I’d argue the exact same accusations can be leveled here.
The mesmerising framing shows Copolla's fine artistry and the cast deliver the melodramatic lines with grace but everyone’s done far better historical/literary work elsewhere. Also, the snail’s pacing hindered my own engagement despite Dunst and Farrell’s explosive scenes – which are great but few and far between.
With more drama and conflict, the film does improve in its second half and can be seen as a complimentary (or development) venture to Copolla’s own The Virgin Suicides (1999). The themes and female cast (especially Dunst’s repeat appearance) echo the director’s previous literary foray into a woman-filled and prison-like house.
Measured and controlled, the lack of narrative thrust and extremely long set-up, despite its short runtime of 93 minutes, sadly makes The Beguiled a rather ponderous affair. This is ultimately frustrating given its many positive performances and interesting representations of control, seduction and temptation. Charming but deceiving.
Midlands Movies Mike