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Atonement's subtle knife

Posted at 9:06 AM on December 7, 2007 by Euan Kerr (2 Comments)

Keira Knightley and James McAvoy star in "Atonement" (Image courtesy Focus Features, photo Alex Bailey.)

Ian McEwan's stories always draw their power from an apparent simplicity which masks deeper, often darker issues. Such is the case with "Atonement" opening this weekend with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in the lead roles.

On it's face this is a wartime romance, where circumstances separate two lovers just as they realize their passion for one another. Yet the reason for the separation of Cecelia (Knightley) and Robbie (McAvoy) is not World War II, but a lie told by Cecelia's sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan.)

This is a story about stories, how they can change lives. It's also about how stories can change over time, and the burden some stories become.

Director Joe Wright plunges into the film using cinematic sleight of hand at every turn. Some of it is very obvious. He runs some pivotal moments through a couple of times so the audience can experience how they touch the different characters.

But mostly Wright leaves a trail of breadcrumbs past moments which only become significant later.

The film is sumptuously shot. Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey's work is every bit as important as the script in telling this tale, capturing the heat of the summer of 1936, and focusing on the tiny details that can be so important in a love story - and also in the creation of a dangerous lie. There is also an incredible shot, lasting several minutes following Robbie around the beach at Dunkirk which borders on the surreal. Again though it raises the question of veracity.

This is a story worth exploring.

Comments (2)

This is a wonderful film, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but was told how much better the book was. So the dilemma, do you read the book after you have watched the film? Or is the imigary already too strong from the film to make the book work its magic?

Posted by Fiona Mungavin | December 7, 2007 9:35 AM

Atonement was a pretty good flick; it looked and felt a lot like Pride and Prejudice… come to think of it, both movies have the same director, leading lady, both are based on books and both take place in England

Posted by patrick | March 26, 2008 9:53 AM

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