Cert: 15 Runtime: 94 mins Director: Sofia Coppola Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard
What have you done to me, you vengeful bitches?
We all know Sofia Coppola is always welcome here. She is probably one of the finest film-makers working today. Lost in Translation is a masterpiece in my eyes and any film she makes I will be there. The Beguiled is her latest project, many people will know the Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood version of The Beguiled but here we get the Sofia Coppola treatment. She received Best Director at this years Cannes Festival along with great reviews, The Beguiled has even become an early Oscar contender too. So what is The Beguiled about? The story unfolds at an all-girls boarding school in rural Virginia during the American Civil War. When the headmistress (Nicole Kidman) agrees to provide temporary refuge for a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell), his sudden presence stirs up sexual tensions in the remote mansion. As each of the women falls for his charms, their tight-knit sisterhood buckles under the weight of deceit and jealousy, and taboos are broken in a dark and unexpected turn of events.
The Beguiled is probably the most mature film Sofia Coppola has made to date. The ambience, the psychological and emotional nuances between the female characters in regards to Colin Farrell’s Union soldier character are top notch. This is definitely not a horror movie nor a mystery movie and shouldn’t be seen or evaluated as such. Instead this is a period drama thriller. The misty atmosphere, the cannon shots booming in the far distance, the twisty, vegetative landscape, the darkened interior rooms lit with candles all contribute to a fascinating evolving mood movie as the human interactions, the sexual overtones, the sudden changes in circumstances arise. The Beguiled is eloquently shot and it flows so smoothly. The use of natural lighting is by far the most effective I have seen since Barry Lydon. Like any Coppola film she really knows how to portray a film. Impatient viewers need not attend this film. It builds slowly, but that is for good reason. The tension is subtle but ultimately palpable. And then the dam bursts
Colin Farrell is perfectly cast. His interpretation of John McBurney is more sexual predator than victim. He knowingly acts to charm and “beguile” his female prey. Nicole Kidman plays the pious headmistress caught in a power struggle of conflicting emotions. From her subtle come-hither glances and nervous reactions in some scenes to deliberate controlled manipulation and righteous indignation in others, the actress creates a character whose words never are quite in sync with her actions. This keeps the audience guessing about her real motives throughout the film. The true beauty and heart of this film, however, is the character of Edwina played by Kirsten Dunst. From The Virgin Suicides to Marie Antoinette and now The Beguiled, Coppola continues to plumb the depths of Dunst’s range. Her terse, buttoned-up, breathtakingly-desperate portrayal of a woman who had all but given up hope for a life of love outside the walls of the school is at the heart of the movie and gives its very humanity. It is also so far removed from Dunst’s many other portrayals of depression, sadness, and ennui. ￼The film is all romantic notions turned on its head and sexual restraint stretched to the limits. It hides the pulp beneath its splendid veneer with Ms. Coppola’s strong direction and the fine acting from its cast.