21 July 2023.
Christopher Nolan always makes grand films. Works such as “The Dark Knight”, “Inception” or “Memento”. They are often complex, intellectual films, whether blockbusters or historical ones, such as the riveting “Dunkirk”. And they make a lasting impression, staying deep in one’s memory.
This time he has tackled another major topic in this biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, “the father of the atomic bomb”, portrayed by Cillian Murphy. It is three hours long, intense and very dense, with almost too much information. But it is also necessary for comprehending the responsibilities and complexities of men who had to deal with quantum physics, world politics and their own moral stance in the crucial years before, during and after WWII, up to the McCarthy era.
The script, the acting (Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt) and the special effects that relay the enormity of the atom bomb (especially in an IMAX version, mercifully without 3D glasses) are brilliant. This is destined to be Oscar material. But the nonlinear timeline (with too few explanatory dates) can be baffling and at times difficult to follow, especially with so many names of the renowned scientists who worked with Oppenheimer on his Manhattan Project, which was finally based in a vast, secret complex in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
This is a big film, culminating with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which resulted in some 200,000 plus deaths. Covering this multi-faceted man, there is the science, his many women, his political friends and enemies, and his conscience, especially as he – along with many of his colleagues – started off as a left-wing, Communist sympathiser. It shows the dilemma of a man who, as a natural leader and passionate physicist, also tried in vain to avert the proliferation of the bomb which he had unleashed upon the world.
Complex it is, somewhat garbled it is, but also essential viewing, due to Oppenheimer’s place in world history.
Now this is just the opposite – much ado about nothing, drenched in pink plastic, with a tiresome feminist tirade masked in its banalities about an eternal doll finding her real worth during her existential crisis. Oh, please spare us!
There has been much build-up and pre-publicity about the (critics’-darling) director, Greta Gerwig, and the stars – Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as one of the multiple Kens, depicted here as idiotic males. The film is actually a huge ad campaign for Mattel Toys, as they run laughing all the way to the bank, while the world’s sheep bleat along behind them.
LES MIES VAN DER ROHES *** (vo German)
This fascinating documentary takes a whole different look at its subject, the famous German Bauhaus architect and furniture designer who emigrated to the U.S. The director, Sabine Gisiger, reveals some of Van Der Rohe’s works, but mostly his character through the stories and letters of the women around him, mainly his eldest daughter, ‘Muck’, who became a dancer and actress.
Without any rancour and with both affection and respect, she tells of the years in which ‘Mies’ left his wife and three daughters, often without news or monetary support. In fact, her account of their intertwined lives is also a scattered history of the 20th century and the war years in Germany.
This is a worthwhile lesson in acceptance, in the myth of the egocentric artist who needs his liberty, and the tenacity of a beleaguered nation and its characters.
Like many of you, dear cinephiles, I shall be absent for a while until mid-August.
Enjoy your holidays!
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.