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The Beguiled – Movie Review

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The Beguiled – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

Sofia Coppola’s filmography has mostly approached a pop aesthetic with bright colours and neon. The Beguiled, her second period piece after Marie Antoinette, presents a different appearance as she takes the drab colours of the Civil War seriously. However, the entire film is set far away from the battle field. The gun shots heard in the background and the occasional visitor reflect the war raging on, but the decision to not leave the enclosed area of this all-girls school is a smart one. Coppola crafts two distinct films, each with their own positives. She directs the film with the proper delicate touch, but presents characters with multiple layers and mysteries.

The first half of The Beguiled primarily features the women of the plantation going about their day-to-day activities. Even when the entrance of Colin Farrell’s wounded soldier John changes everyone and affects their behaviour, the principal goal is to keep doing their work as usual. Coppola allows us to understand each woman and young girl in the household and gives the proper time to showcase their distinct personalities. Even simple decisions like the choice of dress or the way they style their hair reflects who they are. A strong ensemble has been assembled here, led by Nicole Kidman’s stern leader. The most deliberate decision Coppola makes is having us be charmed by John. The decision to have Farrell keep his natural Irish accent is quite a brilliant one.

Sofia Coppola chooses the right scene to switch the tone of the film and allows us to enter a new act of the story seamlessly. It becomes more tense and uncertain and our alliances become clear in this portion. The seclusion becomes more obvious and the house feels even smaller. There is uncertainty lurking past every corner and one can see why Coppola chose to do away with her trademark style for The Beguiled. Peppering the cinematography with pinks would have ruined the tone of the film completely. Even the editing takes a different approach here. We like certain directors for their particular styles, but this proves that a change in filmmaking can be good every so often.

The decision to remove African-American characters from a film set in the Civil War would strike one as odd at first, but it plays further into the whole idea that these women are cut off from the rest of the war. Even communication is completely limited. Coppola successfully takes us back to a time when information and news wasn’t as readily available as it is now. One almost wonders if it would have been better if John were the only soldier we see on screen. What happens if you’re in the middle of a war, but don’t know entirely what is happening on the lines? It only makes the scenes where Coppola shows us war wounds in graphic detail that much more disturbing.

The Beguiled is a historical drama that takes us away from the major event happening at the time. Sofia Coppola never makes us forget the Civil War is occuring in the distance, but that’s not necessarily the focus of this story. She is rather telling us about the dangers of being cut off from the world and how that seclusion can affect how one interacts with new people. With each scene, John’s presence changes many things about the women in the house and Coppola handles these developments quite well. At times, the pacing can be a bit slow. However, it’s still a well crafted piece, even if one is unfamiliar with the previous incarnations of this story.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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