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Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled about woman power in times of war and lust
The Beguiled by US director Sofia Coppola had its official première on Wednesday evening at the Cannes Film Festival. Set in the 19th century American Civil War, Coppola turns her attention to interactions among an isolated group of women and girls, perturbed by the surprise arrival of a male.
Actors Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell are starring in their second movie together at Cannes this year in The Beguiled. They play a happily married couple whose bonds are put to the test in Yorgos Lanthimos's The Killing of a Sacred Deer. In Sofia Coppola's film, Kidman plays landowner southern belle Martha Fanshaw who has turned her ancestral home in the state of Virginia into a school for handpicked girls.
They are hidden in the countryside, and believe they are far enough from the front to be spared any direct hits from the war. Then the youngest of Miss Fanshaw's five charges rescues a wounded enemy soldier from the North, John McBurnley played by Colin Farrell.
Christian charity towards the injured man is consumed by desire, jealousy and revenge, and apparent goodwill descends into a kind of hell making them all casualties of the war.
Sofia Coppola explained that she returned to the book of 1966 by Thomas Cullinan to make The Beguiled. Her treatment took a completely different angle from the 1971 original screenplay directed by Don Siegel, starring Clint Eastwood.
"That film was seen from the man's point of view, I wanted to look at it from the womens' point of view. It was interesting to work with five actresses of different ages," said Coppola of her sixth feature, and her third in Cannes after The Bling Ring in 2013 in un Certain Regard, and Marie-Antoinette, in 2006 with Kirsten Dunst in the lead.
Dunst as the lonely French teacher Edwina, and Elle Fanning as naughty Alicia the eldest young lady, in the boarding school, tip the delicate balance in this small, exclusive world which creates a crescendo of tension, a nod to the gore genre and a few coy titters.