Tuesday, January 26, 2016

45 Years Review

"When a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes. Smoke gets in your eyes."

Gosh. It happens every year but it's never any less surprising. There is always one film that flies in out of nowhere, a work so completely off my radar that when it hits, it hits hard. Last year it was the Turkish masterpiece Winter Sleep from filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The year before that it was the chilling movie The Hunt by Thomas Vinterberg, a film I haven't watched since and yet it continues to haunt me.

The 2015 edition of this wonderful phenomenon is 45 Years, written and directed by Andrew Haigh based on a short story written by David Constantine. It absolutely astonishes in its simplicity, and you can feel the emotional weight of the drama dripping from every second. The dialogue hurts but the silence devastates. This is a truly wonderful film, one of the finest of the year.

A married couple is days away from their 45th anniversary party when a letter arrives in the mail. Just one little envelope capable of destroying the seemingly incredible strength of their bond. Kate and Geoff. 45 damn years. 

The Swiss authorities have discovered the body of Geoff's first love Katya, 50 years after she fell into an Alpine crevasse. Frozen in ice, still perfectly preserved. Still her young, beautiful self. Much like the body, a jealousy not previously felt is unearthed when it becomes clear that Geoff is troubled by the loss of his former lover all over again. A crack in their foundation shatters when powerful, long hidden secrets begin bubbling to the surface.

I had considered Brie Larson a shoe in for my personal pick for the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Room prior to watching 45 Years. Now I have a decision to make. Charlotte Rampling in the lead role as Kate...I don't even know how to describe it. How honest and tragic and perfect she is. It isn't just the words she delivers, it's how believable her pain is in between them. It's the look on her face during the remarkable and gut wrenching sequence involving old pictures, flipping through them slowly. A slideshow of heartbreak.

The power of this film isn't evident at first, but it builds like a crescendo until a final scene that is unforgettable. The most impressive aspect of the direction from Haigh is that he has the confidence needed to avoid trying too hard to impress. The material doesn't lend itself to style points and the perfect way to film 45 Years was to never try to unnecessarily earn them. It isn't until the final frame has left the screen that I began to reflect back on the entire experience. The way a scene was allowed to breathe to allow the performances to feel genuine. The look on her face and in her eyes with each passing image and the pace she moves through them, some worthy of being skipped but the most damning hanging there like a nightmare. The brilliant symbolic touch of Katya being forever young when the years have weathered everything else around Katya and Geoff. He not only misses her, he also misses the idea of her. What she represents, a time in his life he can never have back.

"When a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes. Smoke gets in your eyes."


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