Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Beguiled

The Beguiled is a remake of a 1971 film 🎥 starring Clint Eastwood, and based on a 1966 Southern Gothic novel. The synopsis is that during the American Civil War a wounded Union soldier ends up in an almost closed girl's boarding school behind enemy lines. The title could have been Seven Southern Belles Capture a Soldier or perhaps more coyly Our Toy Soldier. I haven't seen the 1971 version of the film but director Sofia Coppola says she was creating a version of the story from the women's point of view (which I gather was also the case with the novel).

Nicole Kidman is Martha Farnsworth the head mistress of The Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies which she runs in her family estate. While most of the girls have gone home to escape the nearby fighting, there are 5 left of varying ages from 12 up plus another teacher Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst). Colin Farrell is John McBurney the Irish born Yankee corporal with a handful of shrapnel in his left leg found in the nearby woods by one of the younger girls. Miss Farnsworth decides to hand him over to the next Confederate soldiers who pass the front gate, but not before she treats his wound.

The conflict between duty to their own side in the war, mercy for a wounded person and sexual desire drive the women and girls to varying degrees. These conflicts, the existing school hierarchy, politeness and good manners of Southern women, a big old candle lit house, and long dresses mean the film teeters on the border between bodice ripper and sexual farce without coming down on either side.

Corporal McBurney is of course initially worried about being made a POW, but as he recovers he reassesses his situation and begins to see the attraction of his new situation. The middle section of the film slows down but the final climax happens suddenly, with McBurney making a couple of decisions that take the women by surprise and seem out of character but raise the question of how well did they know him?

If you are attracted to that Southern antebellum vibe, with polite sexual conflict from a female perspective then The Beguiled may be the film for you. This is light romp in long skirts with a frisson of danger, rather than a deep film. The more cynical might wonder at the luck of a good looking man finding himself trapped with so many good looking women 🎥

Ian's rating 3/5

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