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Why does Atonement knock Britain?

22 December 2007

10:17 AM

22 December 2007

10:17 AM

Watched "Atonement", starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, the film version of Ian McEwan’s novel and the latest British costume drama which American critics affect to love (hence talk of Oscars) but to which American audiences are indifferent (in two weeks in the US it’s taken only a paltry $3.5m at the box office).
 
Atonement is fine as these things go, yet another depiction of class-ridden Britain in the 1930s, which encourages global audiences to think we’re still the same out-dated stratified museum in 2007.
 
In general the film depends on high-quality dialogue and lovingly-depicted country-house scenes, which are cheap to shoot. Most of the budget, however, seems to have been blown on recreating the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. This was shot in Redcar (honest) and has a Hollywood scale to it, quite out of kilter with the rest of the film.
 
Just why so much was made of Dunkirk is something of a mystery because the scale and scope of these scenes were hardly necessary to the story. But the film-makers (it is directed by Joe Wright, Christopher Hampton has written the screenplay, the producers are Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster and the executive producers are Richard Eyre, Robert Fox, Debra Hayward and Liza Chasin) have used Dunkirk to depict the British Army as not just in retreat but anarchic and destroyed.
 
Dunkirk was hardly Britain’s finest hour but the heroic rescue of the British Expeditionary Force by the Royal Navy and a flotilla of little boats saved a huge chunk of the land army and formed the basis of the army which eventually helped to defeat Hitler.
 
Of this in Atonement there is not a word — just an expensive anti-British surrealism so beloved of film-making luvvies. Knocking Britain, of course, has long been par for the course among pseudo-intellectuals, as George Orwell noted long ago in The Lion and the Unicorn.
 
These days the media chattering classes can’t help themselves, even dragging it into a film where it is irrelevant and has no place. If Britain really was as hopeless as they think, of course, they wouldn’t have the freedom to run it down at every opportunity. They’d all be running around in jackboots.


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