You can only imagine the truth in the new film ‘Atonement’ adapted from the novel by Ian McEwan. Directed by Joe Wright, this riveting film has impeccable cinematography, compelling acting and a captivating storyline that makes it a contender for this year’s Best Picture Oscar. It begins as a joyous fairy tale and then descends into a chasm of loss and tragedy.
The film’s opening scenes are set in an English country house during the war and we enter a dream of elegance and sophistication. However, when 13-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan) sees something she misunderstands and tells a lie. This then ends up having an effect on three of the character’s lives including her own. What makes this film so unique is its emotional punch. This film had calamatis romance, brutal images of war and false accusation but it’s the sound in the film or perhaps the lack of it that hits you hard. During the transition at the beginning of the film, there is a clever mixing of sounds, such as the typewriter carriage returning then typing as well as an orchestra playing in conjunction with the duophonic sound, and it references Briony’s restlessly imaginative character. The director does a clever job of conveying the story through the use of dialogue and acting but he also uses sound effects to cleverly reinforce messages. He does this with the use of a typewriter. Whenever the typewriter is heard throughout the film the audience knows that it is linked to Briony; it is linked to her lies.
The sheer emotion that films create comes from the music, dialogue, acting, and editing. However, when one flounders, the emotional impact dwindles away like echoes down a valley. The director flawlessly adds to the character’s emotional state of minds into the limelight of every scene. An impeccable example of this is in the scene where Robbie (James McAvoy) exchanges a letter with Briony. When he hands Briony the letter he soon realizes he gave her the wrong note to pass onto Cecilia (Keira Knightley). He hands over the libidinous version rather than the formal apology intended. There is an elongated pause which is counteracted by the speed in which Briony runs away with. While she runs away the familiar accelerated staccato of typewriter notes begins to play. Through the use of this music the director is warning the audience and is also reminded of Briony’s restless imagination and what this simple mistake could eventually lead to.
The use of music is an effective way of drawing the audience in and keeping them entertained. And then begins the series of unfortunate events leading to the separation of Cecilia and Robbie. The audience begins to hate the sound of the typewriter as it is linked to Briony and her mischievous lies. Briony’s childish fiction have become brutal lies and her careless words become death sentences. The audience begins to detest the storytelling and the director exquisitely manipulates their emotions and riles them up into a hysteria of hatred towards Briony. The audience does not realize Briony is telling a lie until the very end of the film during the CODA and this comes a quite a shock. This allows the audience to feel involved in the film as they can feel the anger and upset caused by Briony that Cecilia and Robbie went through. The director has used the sound of the typewriter to thrill the audience by allowing them to feel the film. The iconic sound of the typewriter has made this film something to be remembered by as it allows the audience to feel and sense when something is about to occur and not just being told. The typewriter is used to indicate to the audience that a lie is being told by Briony however the audience does not realize this until the final scene where the truth is revealed. This is showing the audience that it’s easier to believe the lie than face the truth. The director has cleverly convinced the audience of the lie as the final scene comes as a shock. Briony is believing her own lie as the truth and controls her reality in order to avoid feeling vulnerable shown through this use of the typewriter sound as she types her lie on the typewriter. The whole idea of power being associated with negativity is something that is strongly portrayed in the film as we see with Briony, with the power she is given she abuses it. This links to issues and ideas within modern society because many of those placed in a position of power often abuse it. For example, world leaders who are seen as powerful are often corrupt and unjust to the people around them and the citizens of their country.
One notable scene is the near-wordless five-minute tracking shot at Dunkirk on the beach where Robbie and his exhausted fellow troops stagger in to find not the refuge they were expecting to see but total chaos. The scene is filled with thousands of wounded and dying soldiers and shows Robbie as he passes bombed buildings, stranded show horses being shot, a singing choir, a beached barge, and a Ferris wheel. Throughout this impressive scene, the director keeps returning to Robbie’s face and the weary horror reflected in his face. The arduous logistics of the shot are remarkable, however it’s the emotion once again that makes this one of the best shots ever taken. By capturing the horrific reality of war, this shot gives the audience a shocking image of what war was truly like and this will be an image that will stick in their minds making this monumental Dunkirk shot one to remember.
The emotional impact on the audience is surreal, heartfelt and haunting. This sequence draws the audience ceaselessly through the turmoil and confusion of the beach whilst capturing the vivid range of emotion through the sounds and sights that Robbie witnesses along the way. Sad, touching and deeply profounding is how the audience is expected to see this as and the poignancy is elevated by the heart-breaking strings of the piece played by Dario Marianelli. The erratic behavior is a truthful and hard hitting depiction and it doesn’t shy away from the facts. Another element of acting that was done well was the acting by Saoirse Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave of Briony. The audience learns that the entire film will be seen through Briony’s eyes and those eyes are the film’s glory. The older Briony (Vanessa Redgrave) gives a TV interview about her latest novel and even though she isn’t on the screen for very long, she doesn’t need to be. Redgrave shows what great acting is in the fierce close-up of her face.