Friday, 14 July 2017

Vengeful Bitches


Apparently the angry violent words yelled by Colin Farrell's injured solider were never meant to be in the trailer as director Sofia Coppola thought they sent the wrong message but opted to keep the line in. Those words have echoed around the internet leading up to the release of The Beguiled but, those words did not have the impact as I had expected.

Having not seen the first adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan's novel, which was released in 1971 and starred Clint Eastwood, my impression from the trailers was the film was to be a thriller or sorts. I was also keen to see the film as the first had been described as 'a misogynist's nightmare'. I am also quite fond of Coppola's films; The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette and The Bling Ring. I am not a fan of the overated Lost in Translation.


Set in 1864 during the American Civil War, a Union soldier is found by 12 year old Amy while picking mushrooms in the woods. The man is injured and needs help so she agrees to take him to her school which is close by. Most of the students have gone home but the 5 that remain are told by their teacher, Miss Farnsworth that they are safer in the school. At first Miss Farnsworth is harsh and keen to be rid of the solider, corporal John McBurney, an Irishman long from home, but soon they women and girls warm to his presence. But events take a turn, slowly, when McBurney's charm starts to run out...

From what I've read about the film, I was expecting a different film altogether. It has been said it is a femminist force of nature whereas I found it to be a examination of what it is for a group of women to be isolated during wartime. I expected to fear McBurney but I actually pitied him even throughout his rage moments. He finds himself in a difficult postion and tries to be helpful and charm his way into staying at the house but his charm and foolishness gets him into trouble. His actions aren't questionable, he reacts in a way you'd expect and his fate is rather harsh. But this isn't about the solider, this is about the women.


I had expected the women to be justified in their actions but I can't help but feel they were wrong. The film is indeed focused on the women but instead of finding out more about them, we end up with how they are with a man around which is unfortunate. Characters aren't uniquely defined, apart from Miss Farnsworth and Miss Edwina and possible Amy, the young girl who first bonds with McBurney. She loves nature and animals and sees a different side to the stranger. The other girls have a few characteristics but nothing outstanding, including Elle Fanning's character is very annoying throughout. She in fact is the cause of the turn of events and doesn't even seem to care. She is the oldest student and is bored all the time. She is cruel to the other girls and acts like she is god's gift, trying to humiliate her teacher doesn't work either but she tries her best. It seems a missed opportunity not to develop the girls' characters further. I did appreciate Kirsten Dunst's Edwina who hold herself within. She seems calm and quiet but her frustrations are bubbling at the surface until her release near the end, which she so desperately needed. She doesn't over act her character, giving Edwina a personality and someone the audience are actually intrigued by.

The ambiguous actions of the women and why they act the way they do is almost a mystery that is never solved. On the surface, it all seems logical but the slight doubt that there was an ulterior motive is felt throughout the film. The film as been compared to Black Narcissus which would make an excellent double bill with The Beguiled and would probably complient the latter and highlighting the good parts of the film, which there are.

A story about a group of women, in near self imposed exile from the 'real world', take in a stranger and begin to see the benefits of having a man in the house, each with their own ideals of what he means to them, fall at the seams and fall into the terrible behaviour that women exhibit when fighting over men. It's low and unflattering. At the same time the film could be interpreted as a story of a group of women and how thet deal with an intruder then guest then tyrant and how they decide to take a brave step they believe is right. Whichever way you look at The Beguiled, I'm sure its very different from what you expected to see.


1 comment:

  1. I liked this. I never read the book or saw the Heston version either, but this one was very Coppola.

    Nicole Kidman's face after he yells that line is priceless too.

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