Filmbespreking: 'American Beauty'
A man with a midlife-crisis. He hates his job, he hates his wife, he hates his life. The peculiar thing is, and this was something that really triggered my initial interest, the movie is told by this man after his death.
I remember seeing this movie for the first time. I was studying in Utrecht and I went with one of my film-friends. Usually we have the same taste of movies, and I was really looking forward seeing it; I heard a lot of good and interesting things about it. But this time my fellow film aficionado really didn’t appreciated the movie, and she made this well known already during the break midway. I have to admit, it kind of broke my concentration and involvement, and I wasn’t sure myself whether or not I actually liked the movie. But I did noticed I couldn’t fully agree with her negative opinion. So I went back later that week, alone, and I’m glad I did, because this time I thought the movie to be wonderful, sharp and thrilling.
The premise is very simple: it’s about a man with a midlife-crisis, he hates his job, he hates his wife, he hates his life. The peculiar thing is, and this was something that really triggered my initial interest, the movie is told by this man after his death. During the prologue we hear the famous words: “I’m 42 years old. In less than a year, I’ll be dead.”
In all honesty, I understand why some people don’t like the movie. It’s a portrayal of our modern, western culture, and this portrayal isn’t very graceful: we see a society that is driven by money, sex and success. We see relations that are shallow and fake, that don’t have purpose in itself but are used to achieve or hide something else. We see people who can’t do anything else but shout and scream in order to express their thoughts and feelings. So everything is a bit loud, big, vulgar and prejudiced. The director Sam Mendes made the courageous choice to present the film in that same way: loud, big, vulgar and prejudiced. So the content and the presentation are the same. Some scenes will make you feel uncomfortable, especially the ones between the older man and a younger girl. You might wonder after an hour “What am I looking at exactly? What is the direction of this movie?” Because it’s narrative is very unusual.
On these moments I urge you to hold tight and stick with the story. Because the director knows what he is doing. The movie isn’t titled ‘American Beauty’ without a reason. The director wants to show us there is still beauty in life, even if the opposite often seems the case. But you have to look closer to see it, to find it, to hear it and to feel it. All comes together in the most famous scene of the movie, when for two minutes we’re just watching a plastic bag, swirling in the air. This scene is often parodied, but combined with a hurt monologue and subtle music this scene makes for a classic in my opinion.
‘Look closer’, these two words are printed on the filmposter, this is what the movie is all about, but the words are never spoken and showed only once in the background. You will probably miss it. Two young adults, Jane and Ricky, lonely and haunted, portray the new generation who tries hard to look for beauty in an obscene world. Ricky always carries his camera to literally zoom in, 'look closer'. The movie is all about subtlety, about hidden truths, about comforting silence in a devastating storm. This is also the dynamic of the movie: big and loud scenes are sometimes, suddenly interrupted by small and almost silent scenes, uncomfortable scenes are sometimes, suddenly interrupted by lovely and fragile scenes. And all these scenes are woven together musically by a hypnotising and unique score especially composed for this movie.
closer at our hard society...and you’ll see beauty.
Look closer at the characters in the movie…none is what they seem at first.
Look closer at your own life…and be surprised about who you truly are.
And ultimately, I think the final message of the movie:
Look closer at death…and you might see liberation and the continuation of life.
- pastoraal werker Yuri Saris
Soundtrack - Main theme
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