Atonement

Sunday, 21 November 2010

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I like to think that it isn’t weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and to unite them at the end.

-Ian McEwan, Atonement.

I wish that some of the reviewers of Atonement had really considered the full implications of Briony’s final words, both in the film and in the novel. After reading negative reviews of the film, I expected to be disappointed when I saw it. But I wasn’t. I have to respectfully disagree with these reviews. Atonement is actually very self-conscious and intricately made. I like how every image in the film comes in corresponding pairs, how it utilises the symbolism of water in often interesting ways and how it foregrounds the function of writing.

Despite the obvious questions raised by the film about the role of the writer, the relationship between fiction and reality and the importance of storytelling, I was primarily drawn to the theme of water. Have you noticed how it runs throughout the film? One of my favourite scenes is linked to this theme, in which Cecilia dives into water and Robbie in turn emerges from a bathtub, only to stare longingly at a plane that passes before his eyes above. It’s such a haunting image of desire, longing and death. It seems fitting that Cecilia dies devoured by water in “real” life. I know there is so much more to this symbolism which I can uncover.

Since this is a film that I’ve seen featured on many blogs, I’m assuming that most people have seen it, so I’m hoping you’ll share your opinions with me. What did you think about the film? Have you read the book, and if so, how did it compare in your mind? What was your favourite scene?

24 comments:

Enia Is (Almost) Here said...

i loved the book, and loved the movie. i think both were beautiful worlds, though i was restless and slightly on edge most of the time while reading/watching them, and the endings got me, though differently...

i really thought the movie was beautiful. the photography was stunning, the pace fit, the actors were all 100% there, and who can not feel the weight of the world during the beach scene and the elegy for dunkirk playing over it?

that being said, though i loved them both, i cannot bring myself to watch or re-read either. too much to feel and then lose. and that tells you something i think about their quality too...

hila said...

oh Enia, I feel exactly the same. Sometimes I feel like sending you individual thank you cards for your comments, because they are so incredibly thoughtful and unique. Like you, there are certain books and films that I can't re-watch or re-read because it hurts too much. Thank you for this comment, it just confirmed something I've been mulling over in my head.

secret, fragile skies said...

loved the book, the film...this post. beautiful, thanks!

Deleilan said...

What a strange coincidence, I started reading the book just yesterday! I plan to watch the movie later, and will keep your observations in mind.

hiven said...

so beautiful x hivennn.

The above fore-mentioned. said...

I loved this film and have yet to read the book. Thanks for bringing this back into my mind.

Marinka said...

those are nice pictures it makes me want to read the book..Great post thanks for sharing

Tracey said...

I'm yet to both read the book and see the film ... but I do know quite a few people who told me they disliked the movie.

In reading your thoughts and seeing that beautiful selection of photos you've included, I now want to see the movie more than ever!! :)

louise said...

You have inspired me to watch this film again. I loved the book and enjoyed this film, but I'm sure I would enjoy it more now a few years have passed since reading the novel.

Maura said...

I have yet to read the book, but I loved the movie. It was so heart-breaking and beautiful, very thoughtful and human. I'm tempted to re-watch it with your theme of water in mind, but as others have said I don't think I could put myself through that, too painful. I love reading your reviews of movies, I've been adding so many titles to my list of "must-sees" based on your blog!

mir said...

I'm happy to discover you're blog...Thanks... :-)

Rachel said...

I hated the book (though it could have been something to do with the fact I read it when I had the flu!), so I've never seen the film, but judging by these screencaps I think I ought to give it a go!

tywo said...

The photos are wonderful. Now, I want to see the film. It looks lovely.



LOVE!

Meow Meow said...

Oh Atonement is one of my favourite films! It is so beautiful and yet so tragic. Favourite scene would have to be when Robbie's dream (about halfway through the film) after he has lit a match in the dark and fallen asleep looking at the postcard of Dover...
This scene is incredibly beautiful to me; the smoke and lights through the darkness, as Robbie rewinds back to the night he was falsely accused and arrested.

I agree, it is very underrated! :) love

Maria said...

I haven't read the book but seen the film. I think it's very beautiful!

Indie.Tea said...

I have seen it...back when it first came out, and I enjoyed it so much that I bought the dvd (which I rarely do). Then, I bought and read the book and most of Ian McEwan's other works after. I can't remember my favorite scene though.
Did you know that 'On Chesil Beach' is being made into a film starring Carey Mulligan? That could be interesting...

Sundari said...

I bought the film and then made sure I bought the book as well so I did in the right order. I absolutely loved the book. It had me on the edge of my seat and I woke up thinking about it. I really enjoy the way McEwan writes and I went on to read his other books but Atonement is still my favourite. I identified with all of the characters because they were so well written and no character was wasted. Having said all that, I remember the film more clearly. The beautiful cinematography and the tapping of the typewriter as part of the music. It seemed to be a book/film about writing and the human condition and still had some sort of humour somewhere (as I recall). I'm ashamed to say however that I don't remember making the link between the water in all the different scenes but you are spot on. I think I will watch it again but I'm not sure I could read it again. I become too emotionally involved in books.

hila said...

thanks everyone! it was really great to read all your varied and interesting comments on the film :)

maura: aww, thanks :)

meow meow: yes, that was such an incredible scene. Also, I found him striking the match to be so heartbreaking, I don't know why.

indie.tea: I didn't know that, thanks! I knew she was acting in an adaptation of "never let me go", but not chesil beach. It'll be interesting to see what they do with such a slim novel.

sundari: yes, I agree, I become too emotionally involved too. Atonement is still my favourite one of his, but I really did enjoy "On Chesil Beach".

Sundari said...

Hila: That's art I suppose.

indie tea: It's interesting that Carrey Mulligan is rumoured to be starring in the adaptation of Chesil Beach. That sort of role is almost becoming her 'thing' like in An Education.

hila said...

yes, I agree, she does seem to be dominating in this type of character role.

Victoria said...

I've read the book but have yet to see the movie. There is a part of me that would prefer not to, most book made movies leave me in disappointment unless they are 8 hours long and written by the BBC:)

hila said...

Some have been disappointing, but others have been wonderful and original creations in their own right. They also serve as a form of commentary on the original source text. I love my bbc though :)

Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the movie. :) It has convinced me to give the movie another go. I watched it pretty recently, after having read the book several times over, and wasn't really impressed by it. I guess I wasn't in the mood for it, or I was too tired from work to really pay attention to all the details going on on-screen.

Linda said...

This is one of my favorite films, and I thought it far better than the book, which I read first. These two lovers--by virtue of their love for each other, war, and cruel injustice, are stripped of everything--and so, to me, they stand naked in the world, unprotected, and ultimately losing their lives to war. To me, Briony's statement at the end is unnecessary. I am not too interested in the writer when I read; I want to know what he or she is writing and if it is true. I thought the film was so poignant and beautiful--the tragedy of humanity in the face of its own cruelty, but their undying love for each other gives us hope--that is the stream that runs on. I imagine they are running on the beach in heaven.