The Beguiled - 2017
The Beguiled was written and directed by Sofia Coppola, and it’s based on a novel of the same name. This movie also premiered at the 2017 Cannes Films Festival, where Coppola took home the best director award. This movie stars an all-star cast in Nicole Kidman, Kristen Dunst, Collin Farrell, and Elle Fanning all perfectly cast in their roles. The story centers around a girl’s school in Virginia during the Civil War. Their small world is turned upside down when a wounded Yankee soldier comes into their school.
This movie is also a remake of the 1971 Eastwood vehicle of the same name, with the main difference being this time around the story is told from the female perspective. This story is one of the best studies of femininity I have ever seen. All the girls and their two teachers represent various spectrums of how femininity is viewed and portrayed in films.
Sofia Coppola and cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd created a beautiful world that looked like a living, breathing painting. Multiple scenes are entirely stuck in my head, and I wish I could print them and hang them up in my apartment. The way they placed their actors to fill up the screen and the way the candlelight lit them, to showcase their outfits and intentions was a joy to my eyes. The best example of this is when Kidman made all the girls pray together, all having designated places surrounding her, perfectly lit in the middle.
The perfectly lit scenes of the girls are completely contrasted by the images of young May, played by Oona Laurence, walking alone through the woods picking up mushrooms and whistling. The trees looked like something straight up pulled from a horror movie, as they are overgrown, bent and dark. Seeing a small country girl in a beautiful dress almost wholly swallowed up by the mysterious nature around her is haunting by itself, but adding her nonchalant attitude about the dangers around her is jarring.
The Beguiled also benefits from a haunting score that is mainly used in the second half of the film. For the first twenty to thirty minutes of this movie the only things we hear outside of nature’s score (crickets and trees rustling in the wind) are the guns and cannons of the Civil War happening in their backyards. Something is haunting in watching a little girl whistling alone in the woods as gunfire rings in our ears, knowing the thousands of casualties falling just feet away from her. In many of these scenes, they don’t even react to the sound of gunfire, only making it even more disturbing.
There is not a single weak link in this cast. I instantly fell in love with all the girls at the school. All of them had their personality and moments to shine within the runtime. 2017 continues to be the year of Nicole Kidman as she has shined in TV (Big Little Lies and Top of the Lake) and has two other independent movies coming out this year that I look forward to (The Killing of the Sacred Deer and How to talk to Girls at Parties). Her performance is commanding as she subtlety puts down Dunst and the girls around her to lift herself above them in front of Farrell. Kristen Dunst was terrific in this movie and gave by far one of my favorite performances from her in a long time. She was nervous around Farrell, and her line delivery was almost as if she was out of breath as she didn’t know how to act around him. Elle Fanning completely contrasts Dunst's shy and timid attitude around Farrell as she is exploring her sexuality and manipulative powers around him.
The Beguiled is a small and simple story, jammed packed with multiple deep and rich character studies. Delivering on visuals thanks to Coppola and Le Sourd and heightened by an all-star cast performance that any director would love to have on their film, it was a beautiful film to watch. Fair to say it’s not for everyone, but like the pieces of art it mirrors, there is something about it that draws you in. Oona whistling to the tune of war is why I love movies.
The Beguiled is currently playing in theaters. Get yourself a mushroom soup and enjoy the film.
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