31.1.13

Margaret

The personalities in this film don't cohere between scenes. What you get are fragments that, when gathered together, suggest a complete consciousness (reminds me of the technique employed in Wolf Hall). There isn't an arc as such – rather a long denouement unfolding slowly from the traumatic incident at the beginning, a device which serves to expose the hidden pathology of the protagonist. The story itself is simple, a teenager trying and failing to deal with her guilt, but the scale surrounding this character study suggests wider implications. The film is three hours long, wrapped around meandering shots of the canyons of New York City and the chatter of its citizens. Lucy Coen is pretty and articulate, but like her mother her breezy attitude disguises a distressing inability to connect with others. The people around her aren't real, they are actors in her drama, and she becomes extremely distraught when they refuse to play along with her. The heated classroom debates suggest a political metaphor – the film as a comment on America's stroppy self-assurance. But it also works as an exploration of an aesthete despair at a world that refuses to please them. The final scene of the film offers some hope of the protagonist being able to box in those dreams of perfection in art, and allow herself to feel human again.

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