What to Drink While Watching Atonement



Sheen says:


Today I watched “Atonement”. I read the book a few years ago, really liked it and bet somebody would make a film of it that I wouldn’t like. Well, I was right and wrong: somebody did make a film of it, and I did like it.


First off, I want to confess that I didn’t know the word “atonement” before I read the book. Even when I looked it up in my English-Spanish dictionary and read the word “expiación”, I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it was something to do with exorcisms. It had a sort of medieval quality about it, as well. I asked Heen what it meant and his explanation coincided more or less with the explanation that came in my other dictionary.


An incise: Much as I use the Internet for just about everything, I always rely on “proper” dictionaries, I mean books, for looking up words. I always have the sneaking suspicion that Internet dictionaries are wishy washy and probably not accurate. Heen and I have dozens of dictionaries on the shelf just to my left as I write this, and I love poring over them, even when I’m not actually looking for any word in particular.


OK, I’ve waffled on for too long. Let’s cut to the chase. (This is an expression I learned last year and I’ve never had the chance to use it till now.)


Keira Knightley stars in this film. She’s the one who was in Pride and Prejudice. She looks scrawnier in Atonement, and I noticed a gap in her teeth that she didn’t have before. (I hope she’s OK. It’s from hanging out on the high seas with that Jack Sparrow, if you ask me.) She speaks really fast and I struggled to keep up with her. She never laughs in this film, which I was grateful for, because I think she laughs like a hyena. She wore a green silk dress which I thought would look perfect on me.


Heen has just read this last paragraph and says I’m just jealous.


When you watch the film version of a book you’ve enjoyed, you always feel anxious they’re going to spoil bits that you secretly love: scenes that you think nobody else appreciates as much as you do. This has happened so often to me that I’m almost immune to it now. I was quite happy with the casting of Atonement. James McAvoy and Keira sat nicely with the Robbie and Cecilia that I had in my mind; I wasn’t too sure about the various actresses who played Briony at all the different stages of her life, but all the rest were fine. The setting in the first part of the film was nice (their house in the country was far more palatial than I’d envisaged, but that was OK) but I thought the bit when Robbie and the two soldiers were trying to get back to England during the war was too bland; I had, in my mind’s eye, a much more sordid tale of them desperately wandering through battle-wrecked villages, mud and blood, angst, hallucinations and extenuation.


I must say I loved the music. I could never have imagined such a perfect, and unexpected, soundtrack. That’s what good film music is all about – unobtrusive but striking. None of that John Williams overblown brass and melodramatic strings. Full marks to Dario Marianelli  (They could have skipped the Debussy snippet, mind you.)


There’s a scene in the book where Briony is starting out as a nurse, putting her foot in it by sticking to the rule book, which I particularly liked and I was glad to see the director overlooked it. It’s one of those bits that I see as “mine”, nobody else thinks it’s special, and I was dreading to see how Romola Garai was going to do it, but fortunately she didn’t have to. (I just checked the name of this actress. It looks like an anagram of something.)


The end of the film came as a surprise to me. The thing is, I’d read Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” just after I’d read Atonement, and I think I was mixing them up a bit. To be quite honest, I’m not sure how the book ends, but I quite like the film ending anyway.


Oops, I’ve just realised I haven’t mentioned any drink so far. I drank tea. I think you could go for elderberry wine or something for the first part, or maybe pink gin (Isn’t that what posh people drank in England in the 30’s? Or maybe Pimm’s? Oloroso sherry perhaps?) There’s a scene in a bar in France where somebody shoots at a bottle of cognac, but it has very little bearing on the subject. And there’s another scene near the end of the film where Keira puts the kettle on, but we never see them drinking any tea. When Robbie and his mates are drudging through the muddiest parts of northern France, I’m sure they wouldn’t say “No” to a can of Heineken, or even a glass of tap water. (Can you drink the tap water in Normandy? Could you in the 1940’s? Just Say No.) They bump into some welcoming Frenchies who, predictably, offer them some dubious vin de table, and in the book I seem to remember them cadging some milk off a dodgy peasant woman, but maybe that was in The Blind Assassin.  


Tea goes well with most film versions of books, except “Death in Venice”, which calls for something insidious like grappa. 






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: