Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Film Review: "The Beguiled" (2017).

"Innocent, until betrayed." This is The Beguiled. This drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola, based on the novel, A Painted Devil, by Thomas P. Cullinan. This is the second adaptation of the novel after 1971 film of the same name by Don Siegel. The film centres on the unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls school in Virginia during the American Civil War which leads to jealousy and betrayal.

After watching the 1971 version of the film at the insistence of production designer Anne Rose, Coppola expressed interest in the project. However, Coppola expressed no interest in a remake, instead was interested in an updated adaptation showing the story from the women's point of view, as opposed to the man's. Coppola also at the time wanted to make a more optimistic film than 2013's The Bling Ring, wanting to "cleanse herself" from what she termed "such a tacky, ugly world." In March 2016, it was announced Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, and Kirsten Dunst had been cast in the film. This marked Fanning's second collaboration and Kirsten Dunst's fourth collaboration with Coppola. In July, Colin Farrell entered talks to star in the film as the male lead. Principal photography began in late October 2016 and concluded in early December 2016, shooting took 26 days. Exterior scenes were shot on the grounds of the Madewood Plantation House, near Napoleonville, Louisiana. Interiors were filmed in actress Jennifer Coolidge's house in New Orleans. Most of the costumes in the film were made to designs by Stacey Battat, who used the costume and fabric archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to gain inspiration for contemporary fashion. Corsets were made for each actress, while for historical accuracy only cotton fabric was used, which was in turn either stone washed or enzyme washed to weather the fabrics and make them look worn in. The rock band Phoenix composed the music for the film. Two famous Civil War ballads, Lorena, which the girls sing as a group, and Aura Lea, were used in the film, in addition to Stephen Foster's Virginia Belle. 

The film stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, Oona Laurence, Emma Howard, and Addison Riecke. The film's provocative and compelling nature works thanks to the cast Coppola gathered together and their genuine emotions throughout the film. However, at times, it can't be helped that the cast come off as more of entities than actual people.

The Beguiled is an intriguing drama that ranks as one of Coppola's most atypical pictures. It's perhaps her most atypical and most psychologically fascinating, showing her female cast as more provocative than most of her other films ever did. A rather daring experiment in subverting audience empathy - almost an art-house I Spit On Your Grave, in which the assault/revenge elements that may satisfy one half of the audience will probably piss off the other, and then vice versa. Ms. Coppola has made a haunting psychological celebration of female frailty and deception.

Simon says The Beguiled receives:

Also, see my review for The Bling Ring.

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