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A Journey Into The Darkness of The Human Soul
on November 30, 2003
The Beguiled is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen,contributing to my early love of cinema,and sadly remaining underrated to this day.
While it is hard to pigeonhole the film into one specific genre, be it a thriller or a psychological drama,it is one of the very few films that without the use of blood and gore,manages to be very disturbing and violent.A raw and primitive violence that is directed more at the viewer's mind and psyche.
Don Siegel is one of the best American directors,who like Sam Peckinpah,understood the meaning of this violence and did not shy away from showing it without tantalizing the 'voyeur' in his audience.
His collaboration with Clint Eastwood is one of the most successful in cinema..(Dirty Harry, Coogan's Bluff, Escape from Alcatraz, Two Mules for Sister Sarah)..And with the Beguiled he managed to direct an original film that had the best performances his star had to date,(a transitional role in Eastwood's career, in between the westerns of Leone, and the toughness of Harry Calahan.)
The whole mood of the film has this creepy and sinsiter atmosphere that appears quite subtle on the surface,yet as your delve deeper,it slowly unleashes much darker and well hidden forces.
It is the story of a wounded Yanky soldier(Clint Eastwood)evading capture in the south during the civil war,finds refuge in an all girl boarding school.The headmistress (the geart Geraldine Page)takes him in and provides him with a sanctuary and care that befits her Christian duties and sensibilities.Yet this stranger awakens many feelings in the house: curiosity,jealousy,sexual fantasies, up to the will and determination to murder.
The increased confidence of the recuperating soldier in manipulating the sexual vulnerablity of these girls and their headmistress,goes hand in hand with the change that occur within them,from gentle and virtuous to cold and calculating.
I liked the fact that the contrast between the raging war outside and the serene and peaceful sanctuary inside turns to be only an illusion.
I liked too the fact that despite the rift that the soldier caused directly and indirectly among the girls,they at the end link their fates and bond together,like they carefully did in the face of war, even if this means getting rid of the 'disturbance' that turned their world upside down.
I also loved the fact that ultimately the message of the film is about what a person is capable of doing in certain circumstances, and how a ideal world can hide many deep hidden frustrations that,pushing the right buttons, can be as menacing and deadly as any war.
What is quite interesting too, is how a deeply religious environment and person, can also hide strong sexual desires and energy that are truly haunting.One particularily powerful scene, among many, is the sexual threesome dream that Page has,an unrestrained and perverse passion mixed with religious guilt: an explosive mixture.
The Beguiled reflects a time when directors had the artistic freedom and clout to make the film they wanted.The original script had a happy ending, but Siegel opted to change it to its darker conclusion, something very few studios would allow these days.
The Beguiled is a powerful movie that on no accounts should be missed.A journey into the darkest recesses of the human soul that you will not easily forget.