Today I saw the movie Atonement (UK), based on the novel by Ian McEwan, with the friend from Taiwan, CC, and DY at Santana Row CineArts. First we had lunch at Harvest Restaurant in Cupertino, next to Miyake and the one I went to before with RHK but didn't know the name. (I ordered the steak and spuds for $11.99--there wasn't that much food, and the quality of the snap peas wasn't that great. Even though it is counter service, I don't think I will be going there again--the food isn't worth the price.) CC was about 20 minutes late... eh.
It turns out that the scenes we had watched of Briony trying to patch things up with her sister and her sister's lover were created in her imagination. No such happy ending was possible, since both died, one before he could be evacuated from Dunkirk, the other when a German bomb breaks the gas and water mains above a subway tube where she is taking shelter to flood, drowning her.
I found the ending to be a bit of a cheat--trying to be have both a happy ending and a sad ending. Now, according to the wiki entry for the novel:
But it seems to me that the movie didn't make this clear--ending with happy scenes of Cecilia and Robbie frolicking at the beach and the vacation house near the cliffs of Dover. Perhaps I missed something that Briony said during the interview; in the movie she does say that she created those scenes because a sad ending would not reward the reader. However, she says that she wanted to give the couple the ending they deserved, and this could only be done through writing. If the wiki quote is correct, then the author seems to want to have it both ways--fiction can't raise the dead back to life, nor can it change the past. It's imaginary! So if it is "good," it is not because "it offered Cecilia and Robbie a chance for happiness in the written world that they never achieved in life." They're dead!
But I'll have to listen to what Briony says during the interview again.
If the movie, like the novel, wants to make the point that her work as a nurse cannot give her the sense of atonement that she needs, nor assuage her guilt, I could accept that. It is almost as if we need a personal embodiment of justice to pardon us and to confirm that what we have done has been worthwhile in some way. What else could a non-believer possibly write? (And then Briony's writing as a form of confessing what she has done wrong...)
I'd rather have a movie that focuses on this sort of moral realism and emphasizes that there are actions that cannot be undone, than muck it all up with blabber about how fiction is on par with reality. Human authors are not God; their creation cannot achieve the real.
Then again maybe the story is an examination of Briony and her failure to get in touch with reality. That in spite of being a precocious writer (but how talented?), she remains rather self-absorbed, and that her guilt merely feeds on that. Maybe the story is a critique of many writers of fiction, who live in their imagination, without understanding the real world, and really living in it...
I did enjoy the scenes of Dunkirk.
The friend from Taiwan... can be hard to get along with, exuding brusqueness at times. She says shemay be returning to Taiwan at the end of January or in February.
Atonement (2007) - Production Photos - Yahoo! Movies
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