Article | The 5 Years of ‘The Fate of a Nation’, starring Gary Oldman
There is a stigma about celebrities and figures of great importance to world history, which is that of dehumanization. Whether in books or in their media portrayal, names like Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret Thatcher and the like have always been seen as unattainable and immaterial representations of political-ideological ideals. And of course, such stigma often speaks to the extensive and ongoing recognition that the UK’s core government has had since its inception – it’s no surprise that, in the last decade, there has been an attempt to bring their real narratives to an audience that has become increasingly mainstream.
if Meryl Streep managed to charm us with her portrait of the only Prime Minister of the English Parliament in ‘The iron Lady’and Claire Foy stole the show in her rendition as the contradictory royal housekeeper in the series ‘The Crown’the fact that Joe Wright decided to invest his efforts in a more poetic and softened account of the legacy of Winston Churchill also does not emerge with great euphoria, but leaves a certain expectation in the air, especially if we take into account his filmography that includes masterpieces such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Desire and Atonement’, both film adaptations of timeless novels. Here, the director once again rescues all his mannerisms and proposes the audience to dive headfirst into a journey through one of the most tense moments of modern society – the conflict between England and Germany during World War II.
Based on the biography signed by Anthony McCartenthe narrative begins in 1940, a moment of great political destabilization within the British chamber due to the fact that the current Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) not having what it took to lead the nation in the midst of Adolf Hitler’s growing advance across Europe, whose domination had already subjugated, at the time, countries like Holland and Belgium. In the first few minutes, we felt in a familiar environment with the incredible sequence-shot proposed by Wright in collaboration with Bruno Delbonnel. Through a classic composition that values the plongee absolute, the centralized camera slides symmetrically amidst the chaotic debate between the two parts of parliament, mediated unsuccessfully by a powerless judge and by attacks between the two leaders.
From the beginning, the director allows playing with the contradictory aspects that both the script and the Story itself allow, within the scope in question. From there, he draws on a number of techniques over which he has considerable mastery to provide a more comprehensive and intimate perspective on Churchill’s life, beginning with his return to the “high echelon” after the disaster of the previous government – and his The first appearance in the film is extremely significant: as soon as it is decided to put the man in charge of leading the United Kingdom in the midst of the war, the scene changes from the majesty of Windsor to the imposing house of the protagonist, at the moment when a typist, Elizabeth Layton (lily james) is hired to help you write the telegrams. As she enters the room, an old, exhausted Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) lights his cigar, soaked in complete darkness only to have his features etched by the sparks of the match (the “light at the end of the tunnel”, so to speak).
Sticking with extreme caution in these imagery conceptions, Wright almost abusively explores these symbolic games through his work, including in the repertoire the constant use of the zoom and pragmatic centrality to increase the atmosphere of tension and anguish. Of course, after a while, all of this becomes repetitive, but understandable, since the narrative basically works as a vicious cycle: throughout its 125 minutes, each of the climaxes converses with the three complex speeches given by the first-in-command. minister as a way of defying imminent defeat – drawing parallels including with the events of Dunkirk – and going to war with the Nazi leader, contradicting all attempts to reach a peace agreement idealized by most of parliament.
Unfortunately, the film becomes monotonous for the wrong reasons that could have been foreseen. First, it is a story based on real events; using credible elements within a socio-political bubble must be very well thought out in order to be understood by the public. Second, if we get to the heart of the script, things move in an almost unbearable lull – and if you’re looking for some action, I suggest you go see a classic war movie, taking into account that everything is based on extreme verbiage. Third, Churchill’s long-awaited humanization reaches unnecessarily high levels: the protagonist is more comic than dramatic, and some dialogues seem played within a sweeter attempt to represent such a political figure, in sequences that are somewhat loose if we analyze the completeness of the work. . This mix of narrative tones has potential, but unfortunately it is not explored with the same appreciation as its aesthetic composition, for example.
However, one cannot take credit for Oldman’s incredible and moving performance. In addition to being unrecognizable on stage, the actor rescues the character’s mannerisms without falling into oversaturation or artificiality, including the twitching of his lips in more analytical and cold moments, as well as his hunchbacked, pensive walk. But perhaps the greatest expressiveness is still contained in his eyes, which correspond exactly to the atmosphere of the scenes.
There are two sequences that dialogue within the film and that are essential for the arc of Churchill and England itself: the first brings the Prime Minister in his car, observing an urban landscape and totally taken by more neutral tones such as brown, gray and purple, in a realistic-naturalist aesthetic that resembles a painting. As he notes, his driver says, “People are very calm. It doesn’t even feel like we’re at war.” Moments later, at the end of the second act, we have a very similar representation of the same composition, but this time the scenario is of a rainy day and people rush to shelter, as if anticipating the arrival of dark days. And it is at this point that Churchill realizes that if he is to take really considerable action, he needs to hear from those who really are the driving forces of the British government: the people themselves.
The protagonist’s approach to the audience is also reaffirmed by the soundtrack: Dario Marianelli returns for another collaboration with Wright in his whimsical creation and with the same airs of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. All the supposed joy contained in the piano and violins soon shows its true pretension by serving as a basis for the epiphanies of each of the characters – including the beginnings of Kristin Scott Thomas like Clementine Churchill.
‘The Destiny of a Nation’ is, for the most part, satisfactory. With the brilliance of an incredibly comfortable cast within the narrative scope, Wright once again manages to establish his name in the entertainment industry, although the completeness of the work is tarnished by some misguided advances that prove to be at odds with his final message. In any case, don’t expect to see all the viscerality of World War II here, but rather an unfortunately tragicomic perspective on one of the most controversial names of all time.
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