“Sunset Song”

Viewing an anti-war film on the anniversary of D-day, was thought provoking and disquieting. Pacifist and socialist themes, as well as, the lot of women in early nineteenth-century Scotland ground the latest adaptation of Sunset Song , the first part of the 1932 Louis Grassic Gibbon’s trilogy, A Scots Quair.  James Leslie Mitchell, the famous Scottish author’s real name, is also the author of the 1933 Spartacus . 

The film is beautifully shot in New Zealand, Luxembourg, and  North East Scotland. Gauze-like light filters the interior scenes and is a sharp contrast to the dazzling freshness of the outdoor images. Birdsong, dry grass rustle, electrical storms and  Traditional Scottish ballads provide the music. Except for the melodramatic screams of childbirth and the harsh scourging of a son by a hateful father, there is sweetness in Scottish land and skies. The realism of a mother taking her own life and the lives  of her twin boys,  and a deserter’s death by firing squad  squashes any romantic notions. World War I  changes psyches and not for the better.

English filmmaker Terence Davies draws viewers into the story of Chrissie Guthrie. As she narrates, we see her as friend, sister, daughter, student, and  wife~ a  coming -of -age saga. There are problems with omissions. We never see the friend again or hear of brother Will once he leaves; we never understand why the teaching dream is given up  never to be revived, or why Chris’ father is so mean and animal-like. His privilege as master of the house includes incestuous thoughts of even further privilege. To make his creepiness even more explicit the now widower tells his daughter, “you are my flesh and blood, I can do with you what I will.” Chris locks her door, and  soon refuses to kiss his dead  body.

Christine does inherit all of Blawearie. The enduring Scottish land is a major theme and especially so when Chris opines that she feels she is the land. Agyness Deyn is an actress who is easy to watch. She seems to effortlessly capture the innocence, strength, and character of Chrissie. She is understanding, and she meets every challenge . Where men are bullied into bravery, Chris’ inner resources come from her own strength of will.

This long period piece takes us to another era where neighbors help when a white cloth is placed on a window sill and country doctors play many roles.  Family relationships are more vexing than joyful. Comforting on occasion like when Chris cradles the crying Will as he sputters, ” The old fool thinks he can frighten me still”, but rarely are emotions discussed.

Shamelessly emotionally cloying, the film “Sunset Song” is  worth seeing even with its overuse of the panoramic camera glide and the too -long -held symbolic visuals. “Sunset Song”  makes  one appreciate  Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” for one, and a chick- flick with bag-pipes  is not a wasted afternoon.

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Christine Muller

Carrying a torch for film is what I have done for over forty years, thus the flambleau flamed when I was urged to start a blog. Saving suitcase loads of ticket stubs was no longer relevent so I had to change the game. Film has been important for me in the classroom and a respite for me outside of it. No other art form seems to edge the frayed seams of life as neatly as when a film is done well. I am happy that over one-hundred countries have citizens viewing my thoughts on Word Press, and a few leaving their own with me. Over thirteen hundred comments to date, and over three hundred films reviewed.

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