Credit: Focus Features

When we look at a character such as Briony Tallis and understand her as a real person, it reminds us of a feeling of how some people use certain things to make them feel in control and if otherwise not. Some may depend on dreams, art, and in this case writing, to avoid feeling powerless. And that’s what Briony as the narrator in this movie does. We see the story unfolding through her eyes. Yet, many may not be able to empathize with her actions. As a child, when Briony encounters a romantic incident between Cecilia and Robbie for the first time from her window, she is shocked and confused.

Above all, misreads the whole situation of him mistreating her sister. She finds it disturbing because it’s confusing her, more so as a child interpreting the new emotions surfacing the young lovers. After yet another incident with her cousin Lola, her testament leads to the separation of the young lovers. We long for them to be reunited but does it happen or not, is a question for us to watch and find out.

Yes, it’s a story of guilt and how Briony tries to redeem herself throughout her life. Yet, I wonder why couldn’t some sympathize with her? It’s not that there is a complete void of atonement in the atonement. For an ambitious artist like Briony Tallis, who decides against joining Cambridge, becoming a nurse is a symbol of redemption of the highest level. We see her character grow; change in a way that remarkably sheds her old self. We see how guilt can drown us until we become nothing.

To be sure, it is a definitely a movie to watch but not to be influenced of how one should be but how one shouldn’t be or act. The constant movement of the glimpses of the past and the present can shake us at first but when they sync in they leave an impact behind. The little details like Cecilia’s pin, the picture in Robbie’s hand, the hymn ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ sung by the soldiers make every frame of the movie so significant.

Credit: Focus Features

The film revolves around the central characters facing themes such as Guilt, Atonement, Shame and forgiveness. We see the movie through the eyes of young Briony Tallis and it’s more about how and why she says what she says on that fateful night that changes Robbie and Cecilia’s life forever including her very own. And the typewriter sound that plays along the score is so powerful. It’s delicate yet so powerful that leaves its trail behind showing us that the movie, the events are very much part of many narrations, at some point Robbie’s and at others through Briony herself.

What I loved the most was the cinematography adapted in every scene which is a true work of art. Whether it’s the glimpses of the army, and the times of war at Dunkirk, or through the forest, each is an art in itself. Interestingly, in many movies so far we have seen the perception of the world war through the eyes of Americans and Europeans; however, here we see the war and the experiences through the eyes of the British and their first-hand experiences.

It is safe to say that ‘Atonement’ is one of a kind and the themes shown in the movie are so dramatic yet real that many real people can relate to. The themes – guilt, shame, forgiveness and atonement along with the powerful score and the top-notch cinematography become deeply ingrained in our eyes and resonate with our views.

Especially the very popular scene ‘By the sea’ showing the evacuation of army directed by Joe Wright with the background score ‘Elegy for Dunkirk’ by Dario Marianelli is not only a five minutes long shot without a single cut but is also just so breathtaking in terms of cinematography at the same time so overwhelming seeing the soldiers crying here and there, singing choirs, fighting, and playing merrily and madly like it’s the last day of their lives. Saying anything more, about this scene I’m afraid only would giveaway from some of its greatness. Is it a masterpiece or a great work? Ascribing a name to it would still limit it. The scene, the score, the pain of the soldiers, the times of the war touches us so deeply,  and makes us appreciate how blessed one is to be alive and imagine the pain that many soldiers had gone through. This scene still remains to this day, the most powerful and real recreation of the times.

It’s surprising how guilt can consume oneself completely, no matter at what age. Briony is consumed by her guilt her whole life and never gets out. It just makes us realize how powerful forgiveness can be. Perhaps, things would’ve been different had she found that. It’s true what they say forgiveness is above all if not, atonement can never be enough for life. For anyone not knowing how these themes can change our life from top to nothing, this movie can be a life lesson. If you ask me why forgiving is a greater virtue than all, it is because it can heal an incurable toxic disease, Guilt. Hence, Briony who was a narrator and kind of ‘God’ in the world is herself shrunk by the end.

Monisha Ravoori


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