My rating: 8
IMDB rating: 6.6
What a gorgeous film! Contrasted to the depressing state of Ewa’s dire living circumstances, is the 1920’s American Dream-type of discourse that can be so luxuriously portrayed- and oh, does this film do exactly that!
The love-triangle in this film is anything but ordinary and the interaction between the three characters is superb! Bruno, whose character is so deliciously complicated (he struggles with his own love for Ewa, his love for money, and his self-obsession, which puts him right in the middle of another triangle), the charmingly uncomplicated daredevil and magician Emile and the weathered, abused and determined Ewa, make for such an interesting interaction that it overshadows the other cast members.
As much as you want to hate Bruno, you cannot help but identify with him. Seemingly heroic and caring, he smothers and abuses that which he cares most about, because that is the only way he knows how. Emile, on the other hand, you want to believe, but given his history, charming personality and the fact that he is a magician, makes it very difficult to decide whether his intentions are pure or not.
The setting and cinematography of this film is just amazing, you are transported to their world 100%. Every time that the police are chasing them, you feel like running yourself. You are completely transported into Ewa’s world and her cause becomes your cause. That does not mean that you do not get frustrated at her self-sacrificial nature, you just find yourself also justifying this pursuit of hers.
Again, the horrors of the World Wars are exposed in this film, but like with Haneke’s Caché, the value of telling versus a visual misinterpretation is explored. In an emotional moment in the confessional, Ewa reveals what the soldiers did to her. By only telling this, without trying to visually capture something which no one that does not suffer such an atrocity can understand, the director achieves, I think, a greater understanding. In this moment, one has become such a part of Ewa’s life that it would feel like a breach of confidence to witness her pain like that. It keeps the audience at a ‘Brechtian’ distance, which is very effective in this case.
James Gray is said to have written this role especially for Cotillard. Her off-hand manner, accent and melancholic portrayal certainly proves this statement. Phoenix, is like always an amazing actor with a range as far as the heaven would allow. Jeremy Renner is so charming and perfect for the role, that I wonder if Gray did not have him in mind as well? As previously mentioned the rest of the cast just kind of fades away against these three…
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