Thursday, February 14, 2008


PORT OF SHADOWS (1938, Marcel Carne)
The most obvious comparison between Port of Shadows and Atonement comes in a beautiful sequence at the Dunkirk evacuation, as a silhouette image of Robbie is seen in front of the projection of Port of Shadows. The moment heightens his sense of longing and fate, both of which define the essence of Marcel Carne’s masterwork of poetic realism. Like Atonement, Port of Shadows is stylized and heartbreaking, and I think its placement in the silhouette was more then a simple homage.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945, David Lean)
With his early mastery of adapting classic novels to film, British director Joe Wright may be the new generations David Lean. Lean was well regarded for his technical filmmaking craftsmanship and epic vision. His greatest achievement (and as far as I’m concerned one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema) was his most intimate work Brief Encounter. Like Atonement, Brief Encounter takes on a dreamlike state of romantic longing. All at once it feels so full of loneliness, yearning, sadness, and beauty. Certainly the scenes Robbie and Cecilia share together are reminiscent of those brief longing (fantasy?) moments shared by Alec and Laura. Brief Encounter is one of my all-time favorite films and I can think of no greater compliment to Atonement then to say I was reminded of it.

GOSFORD PARK (2001, Robert Altman)
With his wonderful debut film Pride & Prejudice, Joe Wright reminded me of a way Robert Altman might have adapted Jane Austen’s lovely novel. Through long tracking shots, Wright took us beneath the surface and behind the corridors, and made us apart of the Bennett family. Much of that is recaptured in the opening portion of Atonement, which recalls Gosford Park in the way we go in-between the class barriers of the rich family and their workers. The class differential is only slightly observed in Atonement, but it remains a crucial and rather haunting presence as the film unfolds.


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