osprey_archer: (cheers)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I saw The Beguiled yesterday and it stole my soul, oh my goodness. I’ve been looking forward to this movie ever since I saw the trailer and it DID NOT DISAPPOINT.

It is, as I have come to expect from a Sofia Coppola film, deliciously atmospheric. The large white house in the tangle of unkempt flowers. The vast old trees hung with Spanish moss. The mist rising in the early morning. The thunder of distant artillery fire.

The setting is a girls’ boarding school in Virginia in 1864. The slaves have all run away - so young Amy tells the wounded Union corporal she finds in the woods - and this is the only time we hear about slavery or race for the entire movie. Honestly I think it’s just as well; given that Coppola’s clearly not interested in the issue, getting it expeditiously out of the way is better than lukewarmly half-assing it.

But back to the story. (And there is a story, which is not something I especially expect from a Sofia Coppola film.) Amy helps the wounded corporal back to the school, where the headmistress Miss Martha - played by Nicole Kidman, who is FABULOUS, just the right combination of courteously cutting, gentle but stern, and would-literally-kill-you-if-necessary - takes him up to the music room to wash his wounds.

There is an EXTENDED scene where she washes him all over. (He is conveniently unconscious so as not to distract from the all-important washing.) The plot stops dead just so we can appreciate both the corporal’s excellent chest and Miss Martha’s reaction to it - deep breaths, splashing her face with water, standing up and walking away from him because, well, look at him. Look at him. A girl needs a breather.

But handsome as he is, the corporal is a threat - and the school is already beset by threats. The sound of distant artillery, the comment that marauding soldiers have already stolen the school’s chickens (and might plunder the vegetable garden if they get the change), the fact that Miss Martha posts a girl on the upper porch with a spyglass as look-out - this is a place besieged.

Nonetheless, it’s a good deal safer than the battlefield the corporal fled. Almost as soon as he wakes up, the corporal launches a charm offensive to convince everyone to let him stay rather than send him off to a prison camp. At least, that’s what I think he’s doing; it makes more sense than the idea that he’s actually trying to sow dissension, although certainly he ought to have considered that possibility when he commenced to flirt with Miss Martha, her assistant Edwina, and their oldest pupil Alicia.

But whether he intended it or not, he sows dissension indeed, and does not so much reap the whirlwind as become it. The movie is like an avalanche, slow-moving at first, and picking up speed and tension as it goes, until it’s barreling along full speed ahead and the threat of the distant artillery is as nothing compared to the furious soldier inside the house.
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