Monday, November 15, 2010

Winter's Bone

I finally saw Winter's Bone (Debra Granik, 2010) at the Cinema Nova this afternoon, and it is, as Margaret and David said in At the Movies, a truly wonderful experience. Set in Ozark mountain country in southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas, the landscape is a character in itself. The encompassing trees and mountainous terrain, along with its overwhelming and prevailing silence is mirrored in the demeanor of Ree Dollys' (Jennifer Lawrence) mother who has been rendered mute through a nervous breakdown, either through grief or because her husband, one of the main makers and suppliers of methamphetamine has disappeared through suspicious circumstances. Both the Gothic landscape and Ree's mother appear impenetrable, both hold secrets that cannot be unearthed.
This is generally a quiet and well controlled film. Even though there were some violent moments, it seemed to me that there were strong emotions lurking beneath the surface that never quite break free. The camera lingers for a few seconds on a ceramic butterfly hanging outside Ree's house, but it only serves to show that her father has attained some sense of freedom, whereas she is left trapped in an environment and situation in which she is the sole carer of a mentally sick mother and two younger siblings, who she dutifully shows how to fire a rifle and skin a possum - after all, they must learn how to survive.
There is a certain aesthetic beauty in this film, but it's not found in the clothes hanging on the line, the carcass of a dead deer in the next door neighbour's garden, which they carve away at, in full sight of the small children, the exposed flesh of a dead possum or the blood on Ree's face after she has been bashed by close-knit locals who wish her to remain silent about their involvement with her father's death; although these scenes do add a certain authenticity to the film, which depicts the raw nature of living in such brutal territory and poor circumstances.
No, the beauty may be found in the quiescent ambiance imbued through the whole film and reflected in the innocence of the children's faces.
I believe that locals were used as extras in the film and I imagine that the older woman singing what could only be described as a mountain song, was indeed from the Ozarks and this aspect of the film also made it not only intriguing, but gave it a certain flavour that made it memorable.

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