Never having seen the 1970 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood film of this title - my recollection is that although I was aware of it coming out at the time, it didn't get a wide general release - I didn't have any preconceptions about this new version, which is partly based on that earlier film as well as on the original novel by Thomas Culinnan. Director of this new version, Sofia Coppola, has taken both sources and fashioned, in my view, a product of some distinction.
In any case, with two of my current favourite actors, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as the leads (both as good as one could hope), I would never have resisted seeing this, and I'm glad it turned out as pleasing as it did. (Quite a number of reviews I've seen are damning, on the "boring!" line). It's true that there's little dramatic action for the first two thirds of its 90 minutes, an hour that is completely devoid of any music (apart from a couple of songs in subdued fashion) and with no sound effects. When they come it's all sensibly understated as to be hardly noticeable.
It's a couple of years after the start of the American Civil War, and Colin Farrell, a Unionist corporal, is found wounded in the woods by one of the half-dozen pupils of a small residential girls' school in Virginia (actually shot in Louisiana). He is taken in by the girls under the instruction of head Nicole Kidman who nurses his leg wound and keeps his location secret to the outside world (a passing troop of soldiers). Among the school staff is also Kirsten Dunst. There's much submerged sexual feelings among both the elder female players and Farrell, but it's not over-played at all - only the occasional very slight suggestion of a smile. Kidman, all the while, tries to maintain a starchy, governess-like, no-nonsense mien.
One can imagine jealousies arising among the females, with their hopes and expectations of being the object of Farrell's attentions - and resentments when it's discovered where they actually are directed.
Photography is just stunning - nearly all in whites, ochres, sepias and browns - sun's rays filtered through leafy tree branches (which was the sort of scene one saw a lot in photographs which used to grace L.P. sleeves - e.g. 'Pastoral Symphony'), but it's not out of keeping with the sultry, pent-up mood of the first hour or so.
Criticism has been made of Coppola's decision to excise out of the story a significant, and the only, non-white character. All the participants in this film are white. That complaint may well be justified - this is, after all, the Civil War! But I didn't find the omission distracting.
The film for me was engaging throughout, including the first hour where very little happens. It's beautiful to look at and, not knowing the story, I was intrigued as to where it would go next and how it would end.
This is the fifth of Sofia Coppola's films that I've seen, 'Lost in Translation' included, of course. But I do think that 'The Beguiled' is her best to date.......................7.5.
1 hour ago