Monday, 3 November 2014

Mr Turner

"The universe is chaotic, and you make us see it."

Released on the same day as the thrilling Nightcrawler, I was more eager to see the film by Dan Gilroy than this biopic from Mike Leigh. I was so impressed by Nightcrawler that I immediately named it my favourite film of the year so far. But now, the very next film that I saw after it, Mr Turner has made my final decision much harder.
The film follows great, yet eccentric, sea and landscape artist JMW Turner during the final 25 years of his life. Here we see him at the height of his fame and talent as an artist where he is admired and reviled by the public and becomes increasingly distant from the rest of the world.
It may be quite a vague plot summary but it’s difficult to sum of a biopic without giving too much away. I really liked this film. Mainly because it’s a fun film, especially the immensely enjoyable performance from Timothy Spall. For one thing I’ve never seen, or rather heard, so much grunting in a film. It really is astonishing how much that deep voice chooses to respond with a small simple noise rather than the more common and complex response. Spall excellently portrays this confident, but not vain, modest, but still aware of his own genius, creature. And I say creature because in many ways he does seem immensely adrift from the normal ideals of a human. Turner is a complex figure, one of such intelligence, but one that also gives way to the simplest of flawed desires that have plagued the most simple minded people as well.
The film is simultaneously intricate in detail yet epic in scope. There is a beautiful sense of wonder and amazement despite the fact that Mr Turner is so heavily grounded in reality. In a reflection of its title character’s personality, Mr Turner feels as if it could break away into fantasy if it wanted to, but it remains rooted to the earth for social convention.
The imagery is so magical, as if it were lifted out of a painting. Taking full advantage of not only the perspective of its main character but also using the luminous landscapes and some fancy camerawork. It really demonstrates director Mike Leigh’s talent as an artist. This entire film feels like a piece of art, something that was crafted with incredible detail.
It’s far from a stuffy costume drama though. The language used throughout marks the nostalgic view of the era and has as much fun with it as it can. Mr Turner may know the true art behind the story, but it sees the ugly side of it as well. With themes like that it could easily become an over dramatic period piece. But instead it’s not afraid to have some fun in the process.
Spall gives more than a performance here. He undergoes a metamorphism-like transformation in the process of Mr Turner. It really is something else, acting seems like too small a word it just feels like this is a human being. More than anything else I’ve seen on screen in a long time this is simply a person, with real thoughts and emotions and talents that can’t have been created or even portrayed because every single detail fits so well with what the character has been established as. The supporting cast do a fantastic job as well, they would have to in order to ensure the success of this story. While Turner is a remarkable character it’s the people around him that influence what he does.
The 2014 Oscars are rapidly becoming a hotly contended event. Mr Turner seems to have a shot at every category, it fills every box. Epic, beautiful and spectacularly performed as well as being hilarious and heartfelt. It is a piece of art.
Result: 10/10

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