Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013)
Ain't Them Bodies Saints: Once upon a time...
Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a beautiful film: not just aesthetically, although it is that, but above all in it's tone and emotion. The essence of the film, to me, is a feeling. It creeps and seeps inside of you, slowly, into your chest and once it's there it lingers. It sounds an airy- fairy thing to say, but this feeling is the film's power. Obviously, as with any feeling, not everyone will feel it. But if you do, it sticks around long after the film ends. I hope that if no more, the way I talk about the rest of the film will give an idea whether you may enjoy.
Because the feeling is the strength of the film, talking about the plot seems irrelevant other than to say that this is not the tale of two outlaws, more a story of love, yearning and of fantasy and idealism versus reality, responsibility and growing up. Indeed, the plot itself is the least relevant aspect of the film, and in a sense, the characters are fairly everyday in "film world". It's a small story about love and life with big, mythic feelings.
It isn't an abstract art-house film: there is a plot there, but it's quite insubstantial: almost like it's not fully realized just as Bob's fantasies about his notoriety and future are just this: myths. This vagueness in story means that at times the characters too seem only just about real as though if you were to reach out and touch them they might just disperse into the air: Ruth and Sylvie's relationship is so idyllic, literally angelic: with Sylvie cherubic and Ruth sometimes looking like the Madonna; Patrick is the definition of gentility such that he seems almost a cipher to it, and Bob is so consumed by Ruth that she and his daughter are literally his entire world. This creates the sense that all of these beings are close to the film's title somehow and adds to the mythic, fairytale nature of the world we are in.
The biggest strengths of the film, for me are the acting, the cinematography, the poetry (in language, music and visually) and the way the film gets inside you so you feel as the characters feel.
Taking these one at a time: The actors do an amazing job: all in subtle ways. For me, Casey Affleck is the heart of the film and it is Bob's love, yearning and steadfast belief in an impossible future that drove my feelings and was the basis for the most heartbreaking elements of Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Everyone else plays their roles excellently but I doubt I would have felt much from the film overall without the emotion brought from Bob. Worth noting too is that Affleck and Mara have a great chemistry in the few scenes they have together so that in these fleeting moments, you really buy their love for each other.
The film is shot beautifully and also interestingly. I loved the way many scenes seem like works of art, imbued with meaning and atmosphere in themselves. However, you also have shots at that hour when the sun starts to dip, which fits with the time (after all the crimes, near an ending) where the film is set. And indeed you have a lot of darkness. There are many REALLY dark scenes wherein you can't see the nuance of actors' expressions. Yet the dark gives an emotion of it's own. I don't doubt this darkness won't work for everyone though.
The poetry The film is in a way redolent of a poem or song in the sense that it makes you feel without telling every detail. Some of the language is beautiful and Bob speaks of Ruth at times as though she is a poem. But more than this it's the combination of words, image and music that creates the poetry.
Although the film doesn't delve too deep into characterization, the feelings you feel are very much those the characters experience. We feel Bob's yearning to reach Ruth and his daughter. Another device in the film that I think adds a lot to the feeling is the way the film uses flashbacks. These occur as very fleeting glimpses of moments from the past, working like memories. Such scenes are often from Ruth's perspective and through these we feel her love as she remembers it. There's some sort of a resonance in the fact that the things we all remember tend to be significant, powerful somehow and so these glimpses take on this intensity.
Talking of feeling, I found the film very sensual: in terms of it's cinematography, how characters are with each other and sometimes objects take on this dimension too. The music is very atmospheric, adding much to the feel of the film and sometimes following the emotion very closely, other times blending in with the music and sounds used by characters. Silence is also used to great effect.
The ending of the film is emotional and *right* for the film. I shan't say more so as to give nothing away, but it really lingered with me and as well as being impactive in itself, said something about those issues I spoke of at the start of this: about the stories we spin. In fact I find it's ending near perfect.
Overall, I loved the way the film got across it's feeling without too much telling it to us. In this respect I am very interested to see what Director David Lowery will put on the big screen in the future.
I adore the film myself and I hope anyone encouraged to seek it out loves it too!
The Libertine (2004)
I've enjoyed the comments I've read about this film here and am surprised that most of reviews I have otherwise read have been almost exclusively negative (except for often positive comments about Depp's performance). I would not say this was one of the greatest films ever by any means, but it has gotten to me enough to warrant me writing here about it which I think is saying a lot! I first heard about this film a few years ago just before it was released to cinemas and wanted to see it, but it wasn't shown anywhere near me. I was sad at the time and now that I've seen it I wonder why it was hardly shown - was it that it was not publicised much, or was it that these days most people if they want to see a film with an 18 rating, want a horror or gory unthinking tale? Anyway, I then forgot about the film entirely and have now only just seen it.
I wanted to address a few points some reviews have made whether they have been positive or negative in that some people have suggested that to appreciate the film (or else to enjoy it at all and not be bored by it) you would have to have some knowledge of the history and characters surrounding what is being told. Well, I knew nothing of the history and nor have I read much (if anything) considered classic or non-modern prose. In fact after I watched the film, I looked online to ensure John Wilmot actually was a real person! Yet it all made complete sense to me. I don't know why people thought the wording or storyline either slow or confusing.
I agree with another comment that I read here that one of the biggest compliments I can give to the film was that it made me intrigued to discover more about The Earl of Rochester when I finished watching. I thought Johnny Depp did an amazing job of inhabiting the character. I found his monologues very powerful and his change in expression showing the Earl's thoughts in the final speech actually gave me goosebumps which I am not sure I can say has ever happened to me watching a film. His whole portrayal from the crude and arrogant yet seductive start to the pitiful, angry and ultimately tragic end really got to me. I also particularly enjoyed Samantha Morton's portrayal of Elizabeth Barry who seemed to be an interesting, unusual and complex character as well. I liked that her story and character was not softened into something that would be more cinematic or romantically pleasing. Although I enjoyed the subtlety of John Malcovich's portrayal of Charles (if not always his accent...), I was a bit confused as to quite why he seemed to care for Wilmot so much and so continually just from the film though so maybe I did need to know or understand a bit more about Charles and Wilmot's relationship.
Anyway, in terms of the film itself, personally I very much enjoyed some of the points I took from it. I probably pitied the Earl more than I 'liked him' or was sorry for him, yet I was still drawn to him - to care and feel for him while also to feel angry towards him at times. I was drawn in by him even when he became such that he was pretty unbearable to look at. I wanted to like him in part, even though he never actually let us in my opinion. And the saddest part of the tale was the nothingness of it all. The pointlessness and waste of Wilmot's life. That he found no purpose and to all intents and purposes wasted what he had. I thought that most of us can relate to that and to those feelings of pointlessness and boredom and the sheer absurdity of life to some extent. I found it refreshing to see it of a person on screen and in history, as that is not the sort of character we usually see remembered or talked about. I greatly enjoyed seeing someone who could have been great, but really, never was at all. In fact, much of the life that we saw (although I understand there was more of a tale to tell of his youth) was really pretty petty when all's said and done. That seems a true tragedy and gives all the humour from the start of the film a whole new perspective in my mind. To see that even the final confession of real love and feeling rather than Wilmot's seeming usual mere exaltation by means of excess or in the way you (for my want of a way I can describe it) prick yourself to feel alive was met without true reciprocation and that in his crumbling state, it was in itself somewhat pointless now. I enjoyed the way he crumbled and that the ending was realistic.
The film did not move me to a tearful mess as some films or stories can, although I did cry a little for the tragedy, but most of all I liked the element of reality that I took from the morals in there, and I liked the way it seemed to portray some very believable, understandable, and perhaps not that often touched on motivations behind who Wilmot was and why he did what he did. I suppose a lot of it came from the acting, but surely it must also have been the point of the script as well.
Oh, and in much of the first part, it was rather hilarious (if a little shocking at times as I didn't expect it!!) fun! I feel it's a shame that neither Depp or the director appear to have got much critical acclaim for this film, but I hope what matters is that someone enjoys it. (Though I suppose, cynically what matters is money).