Saturday, January 05, 2008
ATONEMENT (2007, UK/France, d. Joe Wright, Christopher Hampton screenplay from the Ian McEwan novel)
I am very, very sorry for the terrible distress that I have caused you. I am very, very sorry...
Your appreciation of this high-toned yet energetic literary adaptation may depend on how much find yourself caring about its obscenely privileged and narcissistic characters – or on how much that sort of identification matters to you. The film's opening section – its strongest and subtlest – is set among Britain's upper classes during the years preceding World War 2, when an overly imaginative young girl encounters events she does not understand, and her childish response casts a dark shadow over several lives. More than a simple story of star-cross'd love, the narrative deals brilliantly with the shifting and uneasy relationships between complex layers of perception and portrayal, of truth and lies, fact and invention, error and sin. What can atone for actions that destroy the lives of others? A change of heart? Acts of kindness? Compensation of some kind? Forgiveness? By whom? I was left pondering the limits of human atonement, holding hard to the hope that there is something beyond it.