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Simon is an outcast from his Jewish community because he claims that the devil talks to him and he has the ability to put curses on crops. When Dovid asks the 'Squire' to sell him some land so he can build a railway station, a ruthless businessman from the neighbouring gentile community uses Simon to find out who wants to buy the land so he can 'persuade' him otherwise. Written by
Appreciation of quietness within oneself, of poetic expressions in love, of fate (and the inimitable being above) - a subtly formidable directorial debut from Ben Hopkins
SIMON MAGUS is about appreciation of poetry and words about the impossible being magically possible about the change of fate about God having a hand in it all without humans knowing it before hand about encountering love, courting love, the action of taking the time to give and willing to receive love. (There is no Hollywood syrupy love or sentimentality. It's more in a subliminal order of things.)
I especially like one of the camera approaches director Hopkins and cinematographer Nicholas Knowland used. When there are segments completely without dialogs, and the camera is just panning from face to face to face, quietly stops at scenes: in front of Sarah's window, outside of the Squire's house the lens spending moments with each of the characters. It intimately lets us 'see' into their inner worlds their struggles and delights. It is atmospheric (with subtle complementary score in the background).
The fate element somehow reminds me of ("Winter Sleepers" and "Run Lola Run") Tom Tykwer's stories/films, where fate is front and center. Here, Ben Hopkins (using a costumed drama setting of the late 19th Century vs. Tom's present day environment) has let fate weaves its way around this web of human feelings among the village inhabitants - our five central characters. Dovid (Stuart Townsend) the young dairy farmer courting widow Leah (Embeth Davidtz) the baker. Sarah (Amanda Ryan) the young woman, who recently returned to the village from the city, is scholarly literate and a match to Rutger Hauer the Squire, who values words and literature over materialistic ends. Of course, ("Flirting" and "Shine") Noah Taylor's Simon, who appears absolutely unpleasant, untidy, unclean and eccentric in every way, yet he, too, has a heart and core within (so we are reminded through the course of this fable that appearance is not everything). The folks around were unable to 'see' the Simon within - except for the priest, someone outside of the Jewish community, who patiently helps Simon to disentangle his soul and mind
what a divine slate of hand opposite the Devil (portrayed briefly by Ian
Holm in a Rutger Hauer's Blind Samurai garb in wide-brimmed straw hat) and the villainous Maximillian (Sean McGinley as the greedy, scheming business man of wealth lost in immorality).
"Simon Magus" may not be for everyone (NFE). It just might need some patience and faith in the unfolding of the story - certainly not without suspense (when evil treachery lurks). As the Squire observed that people are so busy with business and means that appreciation of the affairs of the heart is compromised, take some time away from the flurries of things and sit back and open your heart to the wonderful ensemble cast and the talented production that realized Ben Hopkin's tale.
P.S. The railway issue briefly reminded me of Michael Winterbottom's "The Claim," and the mostly low-light cinematography reminded me of master Roger Deakins' photography in the Coen brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
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