The Beguiled (2017)
Sensibly crafted, patiently narrated & brimming with sexual tension at all times, The Beguiled is a sophisticated example of restrained filmmaking that envelops its tale with an uneasy atmosphere, is brilliantly steered by Sofia Coppola, and is thoroughly shepherded by strong performances from its committed cast.
Taking place in a Southern girls’ boarding school during the American Civil War, the story of The Beguiled is set into motion when one of the girls finds a wounded Union soldier in the woods and brings him to the house. As the ladies tend to his injuries & provide him refuge until he recovers, they start vying for his attention & affection.
Written & directed by Sofia Coppola, the story is approached with both confidence & composure as Coppola takes her time to add more depth to the characters, and unfolds the plot in an unhurried fashion. The dense ambiance & slow pace do provide an immersive quality to the picture but there are also moments interspersed with sudden intensity.
The script packs well-defined characters but the story still needed a bit more refinement, for some moments linger on for longer than required while the finale lacks that extra punch. Cinematography is pitch-perfect as its muted colour palette & low-light photography not only amplify its bleak aura but also add a Gothic touch & hint of sinister to its images.
Production design team does well to provide an authentic touch to its timeline & setting, and their work is wonderfully assisted by the era-appropriate costumes. Editing is a mixed bag, for the slow pace is fitting here yet there are a few scenes it could’ve done without. Sound is finely utilised and makes sure that the ongoing war’s presence remains in the vicinity while Phoenix contributes with a complementary score.
Coming to the acting department, The Beguiled features a talented cast in Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning, and they are all effective in their given roles. Kidman delivers a sharp input, Farrell portrays both the kind & cruel side of his character with ease, Dunst chips in with a subdued performance, Fanning’s seductive role is just as interesting but it’s the chemistry between them that remains the film’s major highlight.
On an overall scale, The Beguiled takes a slow, methodical approach in bringing its tale to life but it’s gripping & technically polished throughout, and is a solid addition to Sofia Coppola’s filmography. What benefits it most is the smart, subtle & seductive performances from its cast and the palpable sexual tension that permeates its thick atmosphere. What it lacks, however, is the ingredient that makes a good film great but even without that, The Beguiled makes up for a fascinating viewing. Definitely worth a shot.