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The Beguiled

Directed by Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is a gothic dram, set during the U.S. Civil War, about a wounded Union soldier who’s taken in by the headmistress and students of a secluded, all-female Virginia seminary. Based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel and previously filmed in 1971 by Don Siegel with Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, it’s a tale of repressed desires and sexual power dynamics.

Coppola’s a master at taking something that could be portentous and rendering it delicate, thereby reclaiming its depth. The emotions in The Beguiled are simple and understated, and you feel more for the characters as a result. As Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is nursed back to health, he starts to toy with the women and young girls of the seminary, in an effort to get them to let him stay. But it’s not as if they need much extra encouragement: They’re donning their nicest clothes and jewelry not long after he arrives. And everyone’s aware of it, too.

The character dynamics transfix – particularly the interplay between headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, excellent as always) – but I was most taken with the way Coppola uses style to create meaning. In the first half, we hear but almost never see bombs in the distance, a regular reminder of the battlefield’s proximity. As the story becomes darker and more violent, Coppola often cuts to exterior shots of the seminary, and we hear the shouting and stomping come from inside the building – as if the war has finally infiltrated the grounds and these girls’ reality.

But this isn’t an artificial, outside violence that has entered this sheltered idyll. The cruelties, jealousies, and manipulations of The Beguiled are natural and come from within. And the haunting series of shots that end the film suggests that what’s emerged will never go away.

– Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice 

Showtimes: 

No screenings currently scheduled.

Directed by: 
Sofia Coppola
Running Time: 
93
Country(ies): 
U.S.A.
Language: 
English
Starring: 
Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Colin Farrell
Screenplay by: 
Sofia Coppola (Based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan)
Rated: 
14A

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