In the film, the perspective someone has on various events are shown to greatly contrast. An example of this Is an argument between two of the film’s key characters, Cecilia and Robbie, at the beginning of the film. This argument is in fact shown twice in a row, once through the perspective of Celeriac’s younger sister Bryony, and again close to the action. In Britons view, she observes through an upstairs window of their manor house an argument that she perceives to be full of sexual tension. She can hear none of what is being said, apart from Robbie sharply shouting “wait! “.
Her Inability to fully understand the argument meant that the little she could see, led to her making lady inaccurate conclusions as to what the argument was about. She assumes Robbie shouting is out of anger, and that the tension between Robbie and Cecilia is solely imposed by him. This is shown to be wrong when the scene is shown a second time, with this time showing that the argument was over something trivial, and the sexual tension was triggered by both Cecilia and Robbie. Because she had a skewed perspective, Bryony gets an Idea that causes many problems later In the film.
By using these differing perspectives, Wright therefore forces us to consider what we are and rent shown in other films of the same genre. In most love stories, conflicts arise (and are resolved) in the course of the film. In his film, however, Wright shows how inaccurate having a single perspective on a conflict can be, making us doubt the truth in other stories. It is also a reflection on the real world application of perspective. Wright literally shows us that “there are two sides to every story”, and how the differences between them can define not only a film, but a life.
Wright also uses time to expand on what is shown In his film. Unlike typical love stones In which a happily ever after is reached in not only the two hours of the film, but the limited amount of time the characters in the film experience, Wright makes his characters live out their whole lives before the camera. The film begins in 1935 when Bryony is 13. She is shown at two other ages, at both 18 and 77, meaning the story we are told is 64 years long. This means that the characters’ whole lives pass, and through this we can see their relationships develop and change over a large amount of time.
As a result of a lie she told at age 13, Bryony spends her whole life trying to atone for the damage it as done, and by being able to see how she is still trying to atone for her actions 64 years after the fact means that we can truly understand the consequences of even small actions. This time-twist on the traditional “butterfly effect” mean that we see exactly what effects her actions have not only on herself, but on the people around her. Two such people are Robbie and Cecilia. The theme of love between them Is years long like Britons is.
This is because one of the effects of her lie was their deaths, only months apart from each other, 5 years after the lie was told. However, ring these 5 years we are able to see the ups, downs, twists and turns of their aging love. In doing so, Wright makes their relationship more realistic than what is typical in romantic films. The usual structure involves one, maybe two obstacles to be overcome before reaching resolution and a happy ending. Robbie and Cecilia, however, are faced with unending hardship and a lot of time apart.
The increased length of relationship time we are shown results in the audience being more able to compare the film to their own lives. Real relationships are never finished. They intention, whether interrupted or not, until one or both parties are no longer committed. Robbie and Cecilia remained committed to each other up to their deaths, and by showing how they stood the test of time despite adversities, Wright reflects on the need for commitment and patience in relation to the constant growth of real relationships.
This truthfulness in Wright’s portrayal of relationships is extended by the lack of a true happy ending in the film. Love stories are watched because a happy ending is guaranteed. The lack of such assurance in real life means people crave some sort of promise that true happiness is a real possibility. By watching characters on a screen have (or earn) their happy ending we allow ourselves to doubt the possible disappointment and cruelty life could offer. In Wright’s film, however, he plays with this idea.
The film’s two lovers, Cecilia and Robbie, are not allowed a happy ending. They die apart and alone before they can have their happiness, denied the happy ending we have learnt to expect. This is initially shocking to the audience, with Wright delivering their endings abruptly, and without apology. But it is this very shock factor that sets this film apart. If the film were to have a happy ending, t would have nowhere near the same effect on the audience.
Instead of being content and satisfied, we are shocked, saddened, and, ultimately, challenged by Wright to not rely on a happy ending falling into place, but to make our own happiness. The film Atonement directed by Joe Wright refreshes a traditional love story with interesting twists and conventions. By playing around with perspective, time and the idea of happy endings, Wright not only made an interesting and challenging film, but also challenges traditional genre conventions. In doing so, his film is new and refreshing, despite being a typical love story at heart.
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