“Find you, love you, marry you, and live without shame.”
For the past week I have been taken in by Atonement. As it happens with me, I am always "taken in" .... bewitched, by one film or the other and it is a compulsion to watch it again and again till the parts of the whole start becoming smaller and smaller , till they become mundane. The progression is, the parts of the film become bigger, (vis-a- vis the whole) in repeated viewings, reveal themselves, enchant me, and then in further viewing start becoming smaller and mundane (which is sad and I wish I could consciously avoid it. Its possible to avoid it and i'm, working on it) So, I've loved Atonement, the movie. I am reading the novel and haven't finished it. While I'm reading it, the things I instinctively felt about the tragedy, the story of the film were confirmed by the first seven chapters of the novel (that's where I'm at right now). I cried a lot. A lot. And I havent felt this way about a hero, the way I have about Robbie Turner, and Briony Tallis. I am happy that a character like Briony Tallis was created and am more than pleased with its portrayal by Ronan.
I was in love with the music of the film, especially, Elegy for Dunkirk and the four and a half minute long, uninterrupted shot, a single shot. I cant put into words (that is the reason I have started the study of literature, sentences and words and enrolled for a degree in English) how this single shot made me cry (of course) and touched the unseen parts of my heart. I am now thinking if the fact that its single shot worked against the film in some ways. The shot led me to explore its beautiful and powerful soundtrack and I somehow ended up listening to a lot of soundtracks of many films - among them - James Newton Howard's Sixth Sense. I thought, Atonement would very well fall apart in front of external logic (Do you see how the Robbie being accused of the crime is treated illogically, how can he be raping Lola if the cousins can testify he was the one who found them? Its lame how a bee draws Briony to witness the fountain encounter and a fallen ornament to the library.) But Shyamalan's films are enthusiastically accused and suffer this very argument and are disliked because it seems he's losing his touch and critics seem to take pleasure of this sad progression or decline of his career unfolding in front of their eyes.
Never let me go (2010) and now Atonement. I like these movies because they give me pain. Just give me eternal pain and sorrow, destitution, desolation, misery and most importantly, misfortune. A sense of pre determination, fate, loss of control and power over life, something shared by us all, Robbie and soldiers of war - a war which plays dice with lives of courageous noble men of honor. I thought of that part of our heart that says, this is it, this is the misfortune I've been given, because I have done something wrong - a mistake by the library - what my body made me do - the impulses of the body felt so strongly and uncontrollable in the moment. The part of our heart which makes a different choice of emotion - of pain and misery. How can we choose to be sad? unhappy? When Robbie talks with Cee in the cafe before leaving for the war, he confesses his guilt - he wishes he hadnt done what he did in the library to her, and now that act will haunt him and ruin his life.
The case of the film Atonement descends into tragedy because the initial premise of languishing well being and comfort wasn't going anywhere in the first place. What with swims and wasting by the pool...Cee and Robbie were a class apart anyway and Robbie was in debt of Cee's father and that's just not man enough of him. Cee and her mother have nothing to do around the house and what is Robbie doing gardening around after a degree from Cambridge? Who the fuck cares what I think about any fucking movie that comes out in the horde of movies every fucking year? But no-one cares what you think about movies or about what you think about my opinions either. So- what its really about is one's expression and venting. Its a very selfish exercise and nobody should expect to make a living out of anything remotely like this or writing as a whole.
Robbie sees many 13 - 15 year old school girls dead and laid in front of him (it had to be little girls not a random agglomeration of dead bodies) and nobody held accounted for murder of innocent while his life and lives of millions of soldiers of nations are expendable.
Children. Someone has to pay for the negligence towards children. For, no-one understands how frustrating it is to be a child (Remember what Clementine said? ...that was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, by the way) and there is loneliness and helplessness when nobody understands your experiences as a child. The judgments about sex and love, intimacy, relationships that children -like Briony - derive, are misguided; but they were taken for granted, always, in the first place. When a child sees the act of love making by chance, he/ she is almost always alone and its always upto him what to make of it. How to deal with the horror or the otherworldliness of it. Thanks to McEwan a story is constructed so that people pay for taking for granted a 13 year old's perceptions. I mean who cares about the perceptions about sex of a 13 year old? Her mother certainly doesnt. Nobody cares to shape them, guide them and show the proper way. I am angry with this world of self help and religious buffoonery which is at your service for your problems of life when you are adults. Sixth sense was about fears, healing and purpose of life and actions and conditions of a little boy. With stories of tragedy or premise of supernatural writers want to bring to light the confusion of childhood. A play is how Briony is dealing with the concept of love and everything surrounding her - as it turns out writing is the tool of dealing with childhood travesties for her and for the rest of her life, a support. Music of typewriter deftly conveys brutal snap judgments - it is Briony's language. In the end she,- a coward till the very end - a prisoner to the 13 year old self confesses she could not confront neither her sister nor Robbie. She could make a gesture of atonement the only way she knew - through writing. I think our inability to deal with children can be the single most important crime and the source of all our undoing.
The ending is the kicker. What is real? Have we been seeing the narrative of Briony herself? The ultimate vanity of a novelist? Did Briony decide,all along the narrative of Robbie and Cecilia's love that we see on screen? How will a happy ending change you? What purpose will be served by reality or honesty? Who's escape is it, the writer's or the reader's? It was she, the god, who gave them their happiness. In the face of Venessa Redgrave you see the 13 year old who hasnt changed, who still says it like it is, to the brain of a writer.
Could this film touch those who lost dear ones on the last day of evacuation of Dunkirk? Lives which were changed by chance cruelly, simply swayed like a branch of a tree and a lifetime of love and longing was decreed.