On Chesil Beach : A Film Review

 

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On Chesil Beach

Directed by Dominic Cooke, Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley. Screenplay by Ian McEwan Based on On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.
Cast Saoirse Ronan … Florence Ponting, Emily Watson … Violet Ponting, Samuel West … Geoffrey Ponting, Billy Howle … Edward Mayhew, Anne-Marie Duff … Marjorie Mayhew, Rasmus Hardiker … Waiter 2, Bebe Cave … Ruth Ponting, Adrian Scarborough … Lionel Mayhew, Jonjo O’Neill … Phil, David Olawale Ayinde …, Wigmore Audience Concert Attendee, Bronte Carmichael … Young Chloe Morrell, Bernardo Santos … Cinema Couple, Philip Labey … Bob, Ty Hurley … Wigmore Concert Attendee, Oliver Johnstone … Ted
Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Emily Watson, Anne-Marie Duff, Samuel West, Adrian Scarborough.  Music by Dan Jones, Cinematography Sean Bobbitt, Edited by Nick Fenton, Production company Number 9 Films, BBC Films. Distributed by Lionsgate, Bleecker Street.
Duration 1hr 50mins. Cert. 15. Country United Kingdom. Language English.

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Short Navigations

This is a story told in three time periods and it begins and mostly occupies the earliest period and its immediate rub up to wedlock. Over 60% hovers around the earlier period. The later times are visited in reflection and as indications of how things have turned out for Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle).  The times change them irrevocably and the outcome of this story is far from the imagined prospect when we first enter the story as it reaches the honeymoon reservation of a posh hotel in Dorset overlooking the shingle headland or bar of pebbles that create an other worldliness of escapism and is harbinger of hope and romance.

Setting

Where is Chesil Beach and is it sunny and hot? ; not always a pair.  Well it is the jurassic coast of Dorset, Southern England and more notable for its shingle and Portland Bill and Portland stone, no sand is to be seen along it.  Apparently the crew where filming this in late autumn 2017 and it was obviously a chilling time but colour grading works wonders.

People in 1962

Both these young people are acutely sensitive to the sensibilities of the times and in their being born during the war are acutely aware of the dynamics of peace and a new frontier of a Cold War developing in the struggle for supremacy in Russia and Germany alongside its reconstructed allies and temporary reparations in European idealised modernity.  Both have first class honours degrees and Edward is a product of a teacher and headmaster father Lionel ( Adrian Scarborough). He has two siblings, twin girls born after an accident befalling their mother Marjorie (Anne-Marie Duff) now housebound, if not naked and watching the squirrels as people inhabiting her comfortable and mature garden.  A recent short film at the Belfast Film Festival concerned itself with dementia and was called Monkeys in the Garden. Not to make light of it, it too was a vision of how lives are affected by a moments occurrence or breakdown of the bodies defences.

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Portraits

We see the view of Edward through this revision in his life, in respect of his mother’s injury and his anger, which is a feature not currently present, is recalled in anecdotes.  Florence (named after the City? hardly the type given the austere ma and pop!) knows little about him other than his reformed side and CND encounters.  An academic he is nevertheless keeping tabs on the grosser forces within him, his aggression is a tool and servant but he feels inadequate as it is his intellect and inability to deduce his own belief system.  He is shifted of course by events and this is borne out over the going back and reveal of certain aspects of his childhood.  OK I said there were three time periods, perhaps there were others crept into for pathos.

For Florence’s story it is also interlaced with similar anecdotes with a delightful toff in the form of mother Violet, (Emily Watson), a constantly austere wannabe Jackie Kennedy alongside her status hungry and sometimes mysterious husband Geoffrey  (Samuel West) and easily rattled egotist electronics factory owner played in intentionally hammy fashion. Florence  is a music student with a leadership quality and is wholly wrapped up in the pathways music opens. Florence has attained a post of behind the scenes general dogsbody at The Wigmore Hall, Wigmore Street which lasts three years. Her own aspirations in performance are fulfilled in lower recitals but cleverly she puts across a form of music which lasts.

Musics healing

I remember on the way home from work often passing the along the Wigmore Hall rear alleyway at a time uncertainty hung over the arts funding of that long established place and lunchtime performances by the and for the BBC Radio audience proved to be a cultural asset heavily embedded in good music played to the highest possible standard open for public consumption and egalitarian defiantly hoping against hope and Thatcher the continuance of the philosophy behind excellence as common property to be cherished.

The alleyway features here intact and unspoiled as before, its indentures prosaic and tangible despite the troubled periods seen through its existence.  It is a remarkable presence and feature of West London a little distance from Oxford Street and Harley Street.  Florence had the opportunity of assisting in performance as page turner to Benjamin Brittain and the evening performances had an international element equal in such a conservatoire atmosphere a smaller bolt hole away from the grander Albert Hall and Royal Opera House.  The atmosphere inside was a musical paradise and retreat.

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Notes as words

Throughout the film the choice of music is a stirring counterpoint othe emotional twists and turns and it is obvious this is a very important strategic tactic as it fills the cinema with a richness of audio pinnacles and troughs accompanying scenes of despair and unalloyed joy. Mozart, Bach, Haydn, Rachmaninov, Brittain, Beethoven all feature in the deliberate layering on us of a timeless appreciation of the emotions evolving. Were the music is at its height often the emotion is mixed and nervously exchanging between us and what we see a sense of elevation while it in reality is a one, visually which had none of the material a book can convey.  These are the awkward extremities of the young lovers own deeply felt disoriented disordered conflict of expectations.

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Mis-steps

Here I have to place my failure to accept, in large parts, the premise inherent in the novella.  I found the absence of enquiry or even a consultation of a Doctor by Florence off kilter.  There is a deficit and no dimension of mental disturbance in the mind of Florence whose horrible construct of the sexual act is a peculiarly obstinate block her life has not prepared her for. There was at the time a new emphasis on the workings of the brain and R D Lang etc. Freud preceding brought it forward into the public realm along with TV and middle class enquiry.  The book is able to push boundaries where a script will not allow and this film depends too much on the concepts of the viewer filling in the spaces and stiltedness of some of the imponderables.  The fluency of prose Ian McEwan is stretched to replicate in this screenplay.  On Chesil Beach she discloses in a speech, her anxiety in a long soul searching yet still unformed or fully expressed contempt of the actual response she articulated in circuitous explanation leaving Edward in a pale of despair.
There is a feeling the film does not convey the real problems on the side of Edward either. While we are left to assume certain things about Florence and then are unable to gauge the extent of hurt and damage they cause and with things also causing her uneasiness and tense suffocating anxiety. There is in Edwards situation a sense of male entitlement of sorts given his deliberations in the led up to the troublesome (more than) bedroom scenes. It would have been, either a sense of duty to perform or be heroic and actually create a magnificent, unforgettable night of continual passion and lovemaking (!) as if it’s something as a male he is programmed to do, he is also contemplating the strangeness of these feelings and unable to equate eroticism with the needs of his partner and new very virginal wife. Then it creates an emasculated reaction and even more harm. There is a chasm between their thoughts and the film does not deal with them sufficiently well to overcome the visual awkwardness. There is still in these times a fearfulness that the awkwardness and newness of the experience may not fit ideals. Those ideals are themselves at the root of the problem and the present day information and education. It depends where it is found and Edward is also a person whose intensity does not help which itself is not adequately explored. Florence has to ask about his character and that is supposed to be a formation of a judgement for a clearly clever woman?!

London, we have a problem.

The way the conversations are developed are very attentive to the authors intent and premise.  The question lurking is has he found a very unusual compelling story and is it to be seen as a wider component of the times and traditions, behaviours of the times.  With both having long spells in London and away from their parental conformity I thought it too much of a stretch to see them as hesitant, micro living reclusive people without own warnings and experiences overlap, usually and relying on their own lives experience which has dramatic absence.  Dorset becomes the past.  No place for Corset jokes.  A flaw is the inclusion of a later phase where shared living, in the 1975 period a collective and therefore contagion of sorts, fleshing out a sixties vibe in the seventies where – while sharing a bohemian household was frequent – the set up appeared forced.  In the sixties it would hardly have been less of a communal existence yet it was not explored or the arrangements for living not examined in detail.

Psychology undeveloped

Audacious as some of the story may appear; the exploration of the psychology at work having an unrealised importance, I felt a lot of the developing story had empty aspects, mostly concerning the limitations imposed on both of the experiences either had of life.  For present day young people this compressed uninformed pathway is unreal.  They are conscious as well as familiar with, such instinctive sexual stirring emotional decisions and are are empowered by numerous, almost too present, events of sexual diversity, behaviour and relationship guidance. Parental intrusion is not a problem and often is a shared appreciation of discovered evaluation. The advice is also overwhelming currently as the meaning of the bodies acceptance of itself is accumulated in a set of terms and outcomes, comparisons are often fluctuating between less obvious mental pictures.

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A lot of time is spent navigating the origins and the precipice we are on which is concealed within the story, in keeping with the dilemma of her heightened displeasure of the sexual act once it sets its seed inside her head in the inevitable pitch of consummating their marriage on their wedding night. This is a narrow filter unsuited to cinema as it is left hanging.  Even cinema itself is not approached although a nod to the times seen in the film which is in their orbit, A Taste of Honey shows a conflict of familiarity with sexual education.  The prospect is imagined and unreal and in her preparation she is compelled to refer to books which he4 younger sister who follows her every move, is equally excited about though not to the extent of imagining the meaning of the words outside her sisters own thoughts. Everything centres around the thoughts and wildest capture of ideas by Florence which she finds necessary and driven too by another set of conflicts which are not forgotten but suppressed. By taking the story through the motions of arrangement and outside diversions she is able to distract herself sufficiently to eradicate some of the worst until it becomes unavoidable once she is in Room 8 at the hotel and eager to please and share herself with Edward and embrace the moment. It heralds great stress and it is a staccato immersion into the ritual of love making which she and he have no notion of how it ought to serve them. Now they serve it and become overburdened lustfully not lovingly entwined.

Neither are practiced at the physical act of union and become transfixed by the prospect of it on their wedding night. Alone they discover that lives can become transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

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Storytelling

In the bibliography of Ian McEwan there first comes, First Love, Last Rites as if it became a precedence of his novella On Chesil Beach. The straining loss of words is compellingly tale of tense human love and bonding past feeling.

THEY WERE young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. So the opening lines of the book draw us towards Florence and Edward in July 1962. Their day had joined their families in St Mary’s Oxford in a ceremony which went well including the reception and here having travelled in Florence’s mothers borrowed car arrived under a cloudy sky and with insufficient warmth to dine as planned outdoors. Instead they are together in the wedding suite dining and savouring the experience unique to both in many ways. In emphasis it is perhaps intentional to begin with the first two words in capitals in the book as they in the readers mind due some sympathy and empathy given their lack of worldliness. In fact it is not as it is a motif used in each chapter though none the less meaningful.

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When those times were presaged by moral virtue and humility it is only proper, as the Vicar might say, that they were chaste lovers on the brink of a loving long relationship not without reward for their sacrifice of self control. For Florence her talk with her Minister is an ordeal and both find it difficult to identify with each other and the preposterous notion of not getting married is one option Elizabeth takes as an absurdity. The pleasure quotient is not spoken of. Duty is the key instrument here and she is as first violin a leader in all she accomplishes. The prologue is not a good one.

Indulgences are meaningful only if they are satiated and lent great impact in the fact they are prove positive of unrequited love.

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Burden of the past

Belief is something neither have a great deal of time for. The realities of home life are its representation and compliant structure is the invocation. Some mores have it as a societal burden on pain of loss of a godly blessing.  The morality first coming from a Church and sanctified by a class of ancient ritual.

Ian McEwan compresses into a short novel the disturbance of tranquil exquisite expectation by moving into the bonding of a young couple empty illusion. The physical prospect of penetration was for Florence no longer a misty concept formed out of friends explicit stories or happenstance and part knowledge obtained by the troubling loud engorged actress screaming in high pitched orgasmic ecstasy engagement. Of Edwards pleasure and own needs she would have no knowledge only in his expression would she see his physical endurance while both would be marrying each other’s thoughts in their new union and one neither had felt before. Before the Vicar and hiring of the hall for the reception Florence seems to have mislaid her concerns until the moment of the actual aloneness.  If in the journey to the Hotel she was anxious it was suffused with the pleasure of filing away all the memories and even the road ahead was newly seen.  Observation does not seem one of Edwards strong points either as the anticipation is always countered by the more effervescent reality. Twenty two years have passed and new things happen all the time. These are however formative moments and ones to signal and lay down markers for the future they would share.

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Hidden Histories

Edward knew from University about the collapse of empires and his sojourn into conquering his love would have been shaped beforehand by a strategy to be a most humble and obedient servant to his new wife in satisfying her desires he would have comfort, not of a strange woman (The Comfort of Strangers another notable McEwan!) or innocent (The Innocent) passing encounter but a long to be lasting companion for life with all others forsaken. It is an occupied territory long held by Ian McEwan, this folly of loves testimony. Regardless of motive or morals he has attested to the problems enduring through many creative characters all having a degree of familiarity in our recollections but some are born out of sheer fantasy and the innocents here are in a realm which would have been common enough if borrowed thoughts and language are required to see it manifest in the pages.

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How accurate?

There must have been couples off to the seaside hotel with anxieties and pleasure equally mixed in a heady cocktail of expectation in earlier times, say the fifties and even earlier. Would protection be worn would they have enough passion or energy after the matrimonial ceremony and ritual acceptance of good wishes that heralded their journey into this future? They would not sometimes have had a rehearsal of lovemaking or been conscious of the powers within to see them comfortably through and in isolated limbo until they lay sleeping newly married and partly fulfilled in their dreams of finding a partner who became in that moment a formula for life. Improbable as it may sound or seem, the casting of Saiorsce Ronan whose previous collaboration with the authors vibe was her breakthrough movie, Atonement, and then as a fourteen year old, is once again fixed in the lines of the book.

Ian McEwan has described (at his lucid best) his twenty two year old bride ‘as bringing to mind an American Indian woman, a high born squaw. She had a strong jaw and her smile was broad and artless, right into the creases at the corners of her eyes.’ the remarkable aesthetic of the beautiful candescence that Siarsce Ronan can occupy the screen with.  In one publicity picture she is (freezing) on the Chesil Beach sitting with a forlorn gaze looking to embrace a situation that is exciting alarming and new while pouting over thoughts of days ahead. She fits the part remarkable as most illustrious actors do. having the facial balance and restrained openness and beauty which beguiled and captured truth of a kind rarely seen in cinema.  While sexuality was always present they each have, had an allure beyond that which is where this character is required to be in her worldly thoughts of beyond sexual pleasure and its meaning and wanting to know what that building block is in essence why they need to stick together.

Both are on the front of this dilemma as they are at twenty years old inadequately prepared in the era and societal cultural doctrines open to new consciousness. As adults together learning.

While watching, it is ones own knowledge and experience which fill in the gaps of language used by Ian McEwan in the book, a novella which is searching in this film to pass on the eloquent and carefully composited words and juxtapositions employed in the book.  Without self knowledge this film will not work and it is obviously crafted and made for a mature audience. With it als obeying seen in our media profuse times there is a connection to be made by the younger viewer and empathy is even more raw and intensely gripping. A sliding doors routine of what ifs.

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Weather the storm?

My favourite beach is at Blakeney in Norfolk where the seas-edge is forever moving, appearing to me as the edge of the temporal and physical world. That horizontal bent line which formers the outermost point is out further than the moving edge. The curve of the earth visible in the melding of the sky and seas infinity ingathered but going untouched out beyond us. Chesil Beach possibly has the same frontiers. There is the headland of Portland Bill to be found close by.  Behind it is the masons yards where hewn stone is cut and honed to facilitate a memory or vision to be put into a building.  Land is present there.  In Norfolk the elements see to it there is continual erosion.  No land is safe as the coast is claimed incrementally in tiny invisible motions of waves relentless cycle.  That turning of land into minerals swept away is almost the tangibility of the lovers quest to become another human being by having cause and effect.  There is no going back.  Immortality is attained while life is still present. Such are the promises and such are the illusions.

Conclusion ###3

It is difficult, particularly after ladybird to critique a film Saoirse Ronan is in and which she is on her game and filling her obligations and more.  Alongside an equally  strong performance by Billy Howle who goes through a more exposed later life, and with a very well cast supporting group there is a painful conclusion this film is not reaching the high bar it sets given the prose and narrative strength and form the original book achieves in spades.  No spades on this beach but a lot of digging and hiding of sensitivities none more alluded to than the core of the psychology Florence has become accustomed to.  There are few of any joyess parts and sadness is always present in particular what might have been.  The couple are ideally matched and are able to dispose of their similar but separate forms of middle classery.  They are intellectually matched but both are without the stronger need of emotional intelligence and it is obtained through hard learning.

Ian McEwan has created a new version of the story and my recommendation after seeing the film would be to visit the book if you have t altedy done so all that time ago.  There is a good display of the boundaries of film and story which is requires masters of the genre to overcome.  In the book those mis-steps seen here are not in the least visited and the beauty of language – the spoken words are few in the book and the reliance is on your constructing and building your own characters even visually and the casting has lent as much support as possible.

An enclosed compressed tale which it is hard to unravel.  Complexity exists though there are narrow confines expressed here denying access to what you have come to understand.

 

John Graham

25 May 2018

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 25 May to Thursday 7 June 2018 and on general relaease.

 

 

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Tale of Tales : A Film Review

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Director, Matteo Garrone. Cast, Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, John C Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Toby Jones, Bebe Cave, Guillaume Delaunay, Hayley Carmichael, Christian Lees, Alba Rohrwacher, Massimo Ceccherini.  Duration 2hrs 14 mins.

In English. An Italy/France co-production.  Cert. 15.

Height of Nonsense violently rendered

Even at five foot two inches Salma Hayek is in anyone’s eyes a fullsome vision so becoming a Queen bee is no stretch.  She is centrally the Queen Of Longtrellis who creates through witchery and incubation an albino son. The King to her melancholic Queen is Longtrellis, obidient (Reilly), then King of Strongcliff, sex crazed (Cassel) and King of Highhills, a ninkcompoo (Jones), Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) whose performance bricks and twists with ferocious skillful intensive acting as Jones intelligent self driven daughter.  Fellow Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (Youth) who bizarrely lived in the same building as the 47 year old Matteo Garrone without exchanging more than pinched expressions, due to attributed rivalry, has followed the theme of age obsession, most recently in the purely forthright Youth, set in a recuperation setting without compromise to modern cosmetic rituals and is probably best remembered by the naked walk of Madalina Diana Ghenea to the pool Caine and Kietel rest their bones poolside. This film is good looking but is at the other extremity – compelling throughout with the three stories interwoven it is very engaging visually.  Unfortunately it falls down by the injudicious skipping from one story to the next.  There may be a chronology to it but each time a switch is made the viewer may dislike it because they were getting into or carried away by the previous story.  A loose narrative; and Matteo Garrone said they are loosely based on the originals, leads us into calamity, conflict, twists and turns.  There are many, many dramatic shifts well choregraphed and delightfully executed. The good old terror strikes and the use of violence is sometimes heavy and of extreme visual effect.  Similarly the actors, from the poster girl chewing a heart with a bloodied face are part gore and part satirical.  It’s a cut throat world they live in and Matteo Garrone compares it to the present.  He should get out less. Comparisons with monarchies, governments and regimes and feudal terrorists apart it is a more civilised time we live in and factually so in war statistics.

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Strands of Golden Royalty

Three strands of royalty are each splendidly baroque fairytales .  The third strand has Toby Jones daughter taken into marriage with a cave-dwelling ogre (Guillaume Delaunay).  This is perhaps the funniest and more adhered to narrative.      It uses special effects to provide a fourth character – after Toby the King, Violet his unattached husband seeking daughter, an unsuitable candidate in Guillaume as the ogre – comes a flea which as legend has it has supernatural strength.  At least that’s what school taught us with them apparently towing small carriages.  The locations are stunning and this story has dense woodland and steep mountains as well as a hexagonal turreted castle in a barren hot dry landscape with more plain interiors than the others.  As locations go I noted down the credits to the areas. It listed as an Italian French co-production and locations, Sicily, Tuscany, Sermoneta, Alcatara.  This enterprise of the Production team is a major attempt at making Italy once again a renowned producer of quality cinema.  It looks to be an attempt at establishing ‘studio’ based film making; some of this was shot in Rome and the titles hinted at the tax incentives utilised and may steer any unscrupulous ‘investors or hangers on’ – Matteo Garrones Gomarrah concerned the Mafia but I’m not suggesting for a moment that cinema could be infiltrated by such nerdowells, heavens no!


This genuine skilfull adaptation of the 17th-century yarns of Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile whose followers were Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm becomes a bold retelling without using special effects, using minimal post edit manipulation.  The previous Mafia tale Gomarrah was a unique insightful form and here Matteo Garrone has an equally gritty approach as that ‘noir’ thriller and seems not so long ago but is of 2008 vintage.  Decant sets and adult themes are provocatively temptingly and unflinchingly choregraphed in this piece of three fairytales woven from the same surreal cloth.  All the actors play it straight which itself is a tough ask of self control but a reason it works.  They dispatch ludicrous situations in sumptuous settings and with nonchalant theatre as if it is reality.  Real as – feed a flea to become as big as a human, or real as – eating the heart of a dragon cooked by a virgin, hard to find there presumably to procreate or real as – a fight a sea monster for dinner.


Sermoneta


Roccascalegna Castle, Roccascalegna, Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy


Castel del Monte, Andria, Bari, Apulia, Italy Toby Jones therefore IS the man from del Monte.  Who’d have guessed!

  

Bebe Cave

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The Universe must obey our will.

Royalty has its pioneers and in Elizabethan England, particularly London the Queen set the tone for opulence and luxury. She had over three thousand dresses. Taking her inspiration from 1509-1547 Henry VIII House of Tudor, (1547-1553 Edward VI House of Tudor, 1553-1558 Mary I House of Tudor) 1558-1603 Elizabeth I House of Tudor was the fashionista of state brocade, lace, sables, baubles, magnificent surroundings and a mountain of learned volumes bound in velvet of Greek and Latin and more adorning the libraries. It is these allusions of court this film aspires to emulate in its decorous decant era setting design. Spanish, French and Italian all had an aesthetic seeking no comparison.

With every design of any object there is a rule not to be initially the same as anything seen before though all objects have their roots in others and are inspired by the lineage of design.  Everyone wants to stand out and be different, to define themselves by their surroundings and what they alter their appearance with.  Hunter S. Thompson had an opposite view, maybe because the first has limited prospect of being obtained and even exceptional wealth has its limits – just look at Donald Trump and his apparent 700 billion dollars – growing diminishing depending on who you listen too – HST said something along the lines of ‘there’s no point in turning up for your own funeral looking great and well preserved, in the finest condition because you looked after yourself, you could just as easily take the risks, experience difficult and challenging things, take one or two or more wrong turns and turn up and be proud to say, to yourself, My, that’s been one helluva ride!’  

Palazzo Vecchio


So while it speaks of the purity of a lust for finding all the life preserving comforts – with the cost of obtaining them – it speaks also of acting on instinct alone and tempting fate where all is thrown up in the air to land who knows where – the opposites overlap and create choices that confound.  Here the vision is caught with a sense of the fairytales realism in pursuit of the impossible dream.  It for example places great store by the creation of a Prince or Princess, except paternalistic politics of gender status are played out here as they would have been in the Italy of Giambattista Basile and right up to the present.  So no feminist vibe there then.  Also the drama of the settings is organic as well as man made, with ogres, creatures, the power of nature stating its case and the power of it is also on the ‘menu’.  Strong structural competing forces pressing on humanities composure.  The composure of being in charge of the grand magnificent universal truth commanding it to obey. The alchemy of material is one of mans finest achievements empowering as it does the molecular recalibration of our ability to exist longer than the ascribed predicting centuries.  It is also the author of an population apocalypse not awaited but upon us.

 Donnafugata Sicily       

and above right Castel del Monte, Andria, Bari, Apulia, Italy.  Toby Jones therefore is the man from del Monte!

The films theme(s)
The theme unhooking here in the film is as he Matteo Garrone suggests in interviews, one of contemporary vice also the words”violent desires can only be satisfied by violence” are central to the films pressing prescience.  Moral compacting of stories about vanity, desire and greed from the screaming fairytales of old and blood-spattered Neapolitan functional spleen bursting enormity of human depraved acts the film settles for less improvisation and Matteo Garrone manages to work the sets, the actors through much preparation and his abandonment of an earlier gift and skill for painting here becomes a mechanism to make you feel the emotions through a) The straight acting b) the visual feast of imagination realised without artifice of usual cinematic proportions.  Giambattista Basile’s “Pentamerone,” predates and even inspired many of the classics in repeated interpretations today through Disney from Rapunzel to Cinderella. As unhinged as the poet’s five-volume collection aggregated 50 fantastical stories where, it spun a spell of contemporary Neopolitain behavior with wildness, sexual insatiable appetites, animalistic projection, imploding violence. Little change out of the Euro or even lurid Old Britain there then.

The formula of fairytale moralising is ditched here to expose the Directors own mantra relating to the cosmetic values of life employed across the world with brand ‘Italy’ high most in the stakes of ‘model’ unique. Not exactly Shakespearian in analysis but fundamentally observant nevertheless. Audiences will extract therefore a more loosely picked narrative and incidental lesson of accepted values with these desires stronger than the individuals they belong to.  The person is to take a message of a self commanded life not measured against these extrodinarily hyper real visually stimulating tales propose.


Sermoneta

Matteo Garrone commands his own authoritive mark and what is interesting is the fact he has left creating paintings for his own reasons and invested that creative verve in cinema which we can enjoy and frankly be entertained by.  It is a very interesting take on things relying for its heft on instinct.  The feel of the film has gaps and occasional annoyances.

It matters not as this is the purpose of film, to reach into narrative and extract a new take on aspects of – ourselves mostly.  For the film maker he is intent on entertaining and doing so with an allegorical set of stories that hopefully bizarrely met with resonances in our lives.  This he and the whole cast and huge team delivering it do so handsomely.

Even the Star Wars and Fantasy genres approach comparisons with our own lives also, being necessary for audiences.

In interviews he cites Fellini’s studio Casanova and the giallo of Mario Bava as cinematic influences. The biggest influence by far comes from Goyas Los Caprichos, prints about 18th-century Spain saying “I kept them with me throughout the film. In those drawings I found all I was looking for.”  That is a very informative unselfish insight to the way the work comes out and is realised.  He also rejects because of the many constraints being tempted by the big magnets of American budget films.  Here he has a crafted indulgence in Englsh which defies many principles of not just life but theatre.

Conclusion ####4

Phantasmagorical sumptuous piece of emblematic Italian cinema interwoven with Italian fairytale folklore which predates and therefore informs the works produced by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.  While this set of three stories of Kings and Queens are only very loosely related; they come together and it is not of any import, at a funeral and a wedding as far as I can detect.  The stories interweave not intersect and follow the fables according to director Matteo Garrone only loosely and his take on them is to deliver high grade, romantic settings in a believable set of surreal type environments which he creates using old screen crafts.  There is one period interior which is the setting for the Queen Longtrellis, which I take to be utilizing high tech printed white geometric wall paneling with a decorative colored dado which is theatrical and beautifully understated focusing on the drama it is within and not typical of any period though I’m no expert.  It’s just so intelligent a way to convey the intricacy of the environments.  Architecturally other exteriors interiors contrasting are well tended genuine period pieces well chosen.   The actors all play it without laughing at its bonkers themes and where it calls for blood and gore they welcome it with open engagement.  A very important element of one of the three stories requires two actresses to don prosthetics to make them the ugly mother and daughter in a reclusive village hideaway.  Cassels is the King to encounter this pair and it is a centrally brilliant piece of original fable telling with very unusual and beautifully delivered though fractured storylines.  This is a very strong piece of original film making contrasting as said previously – on the same theme of youth and vigour – with the other Italian approach Youth – and neither subtract from the the,Es but expand them showing cultural Italy is as good as ever.
John Graham

15 June 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from and including 17 June through to 23 June 2016.