If I could sum up Enduring Love in a word, it would be "unusual". Not in the sense of "bizarre", but just very "unique"; it doesn't do many things the way a "normal" film does. The first highly unusual aspect is that it begins as a quirky "art-house drama" from which emerges a surreal, tragic event in the opening, and which gradually transforms into a thriller ala Brian De Palma, all while keeping one foot firmly planted in the art-house drama arena. If you know nothing of the plot beforehand (and that's the way I prefer to watch films, if possible), it's extremely difficult to predict where this one will go.
The focus of Enduring Love is Joe (Daniel Craig), a young professor who is courting a young sculptor, Claire (Samantha Morton). The opening images of the film are beautiful landscape shots of English farm country. Joe and Claire are about to enjoy a picnic when a hot air balloon comes almost "crashing" down in the field near them. A man is trying to stop the balloon by holding on to a rope attached to the basket. A young boy ends up in the basket alone. Joe runs to help, as do a number of other men who happen to be nearby. Just when they think they have the balloon under control, it takes off again, as if by a large gust of wind. They can't hold it down and everyone lets go except for a doctor who was driving by when he witnessed the beginnings of the incident. The boy is still in the basket, and the doctor hangs on until he's too high to let go. Eventually we see him fall to his death. Joe and Jed (Rhys Ifans) go to find the body, and Jed asks Joe to pray with him. Joe is uncomfortable with this, but finally acquiesces. After everyone's lives are getting back to "normal", Jed suddenly contacts Joe and says he needs to talk. He hints at Joe knowing what he wants to talk about, but won't say exactly what it is. Jed won't let up. Joe keeps running into him in odd places, day after day, but Jed won't just speak straight with him. What does Jed want, and what will Joe do about it?
Enduring Love is based on a novel by Ian McEwan, and many people have criticized the film for being "different than the book". I think that's a mistake (please see my "novel to film mini-rant", marked in bold red in my user profile). This is a fine film that should be judged on its own merits. It's not flawless in my opinion, but it commendable for its uniqueness, among many other assets.
Much of the film hinges on the mystery of what Jed wants, or what is "wrong" with Jed. One of the benefits of watching without any knowledge of the plot is that it opens up a wider field of possible answers for Jed. One of my favorite genres is "rubber reality" films, ala Mulholland Drive (2001), eXistenZ (1999) and so on. If you're acclimated to those films, there are strong intimations that maybe Jed is going to turn out to be Jesus, or a guardian angel, or the devil, or something similar, and metaphorically, perhaps he does turn out to be some of those things. On the one hand, it sometimes feels like substantial swaths of cryptic dialogue go on far too long in the film, but on the other hand, such dialogue is necessary to sustain a high level of suspense.
Director Roger Michell also keeps us somewhat in the dark about Joe. We can see that he's a professor of some sort, but it's not clear what he teaches. He could be a philosopher, a sociologist, a psychologist, or some other kind of scientist. We only know that he's written a book (naturally enough in the era of "publish or perish") and that he buys the basic tenets of sociobiology ala E.O. Wilson (Wilson is an entomologist often crediting with initiating sociobiology in his books, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, 1975, and On Human Nature, 1978). Scriptwriter Joe Penhall includes a lot of dialogue in the film, including Joe teaching, where he expresses a (somewhat naïve) sociobiological view of things like love and meaning. This is just one way that Michell sustains a subtext related to the title of the film. Other ways include the fact that most major characters are having some relationship problems, and of course the principal conflicts are related to the title. Joe can be somewhat cryptic in his emotional arcs--the point was probably to undermine the veracity of the sociobiological view. In any event, Craig does a great job with the character. Ifans is excellent, also, but that's to be expected.
Just as unusual as the plot is the cinematography. Director of photography Haris Zambarloukos provides consistently intriguing and varied visuals, from the expansive, bucolic landscape shots to an unusual, claustrophobic fish-eye with blurred edges sequence during one of the most crucial moments of the climax. The cinematography isn't usually "showy", but it is unusual nonetheless--you just have to pay more attention to it if you want to notice it.
I also loved Jeremy Sams' score, which had a Carter Burwell flavor. Sams is able to provide emotional momentum when the film otherwise cannot (see below), but it still perfectly fits the austere atmosphere. Like Burwell, Sams has a knack for unusual harmonies and disarming simplicity.
For me, the only real flaw to the film is that it is sometimes not very engaging. Perhaps it's ironically appropriate to the subtext/theme, but Michell often keeps the film a bit cold and aloof feeling. If Sams score wasn't in place during certain sections, they might feel almost leaden. But even with that flaw, Enduring Love is a good film, well worth watching if you're looking for something different.
Drama / Mystery / Romance
Drama / Mystery / Romance
On a beautiful cloudless day a young couple celebrate their reunion with a picnic. Joe has planned a postcard-perfect afternoon in the English countryside with his partner, Claire. But as Joe and Claire prepare to open a bottle of champagne, their idyll comes to an abrupt end. A hot air balloon drifts into the field, obviously in trouble. The pilot catches his leg in the anchor rope, while the only passenger, a boy, is too scared to jump down. Joe and three other men rush to secure the basket. Just as they secure the balloon, the wind rushes into the field, and at once the rescuers are airborne. Joe manages to drop to the ground, as do most of his companions, but one man is lifted skywards. As Joe, Claire and the other rescuers watch this strangely beautiful sight, they see the man fall to his death. Recalling the day's events at dinner with his friends Robin and Rachel, Joe reveals the impact the accident has had on his battered psyche. Ironically the balloon eventually lands safely, the boy unscathed. But fate has far more unpleasant things in store for Joe. Going to retrieve the body of the fallen man with fellow rescuer Jed Parry, for example, turns out to be a very bad move. Jed feels an instant connection with Joe--one that, as the weeks go by, becomes ever more intense. —Sujit R. Varma
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
September 26, 2021 at 10:47 PM