wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Damien Rice’s ‘Blower’s Daughter’, featured in the background score and almost an anthem of the film, has a beautiful line that describes Closer in the best possible manner. “And so it is, just like you said it would be, Life goes easy on me, Most of the time. And so it is, the shorter story, No love, no glory, No hero in her sky. I can't take my eyes off of you”. It’s often the simplest emotions that lead to our actions, or desire. Closer explores the trajectory and fate of those very actions and desires.Read more
When I first watched Mike Nichol’s Closer, I had to remind myself that he also directed film likes The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. While the former is a rather one-dimensional narrative about a relationship between a younger man and an older woman, the latter plays around with the idea of complex relationships involving two couples, breaking all moulds of structure.
To me, that stood as the perfect backdrop for Closer, which also explores the complex and inter-mingling relationship of two couples. And yet somehow, Closer is also trying to break your security blanket of simplicity, as a viewer.
Alice (Natalie Portman) and Dan (Jude Law) meet on the street in a bizarre manner, owing to instant attraction. A year later, Dan has moved from writing obituaries to writing a book on Alice, who is a stripper and as you grow with her, you realize she’s a vulnerable, complex individual with a little too much love for drama.
He then meets Anna, a photographer, (Julia Roberts) while publicizing his book, as she photographs his portfolio. In a more sinister setting, Dan pretends to be Anna in a lewd chat room and lures Larry (Clive Owen), who’s a dermatologist, to meet her in an aquarium.
Each individual character explores their personal relationship with one another, with chance meetings, forced interactions and sexual relationships that aren’t left to any explanations. Why, you ask? Because Closer doesn’t claim to explore labels; like monogamy, morality and suchlike. While it’s a film about complexity in human relationships, the question it is trying to ask is not, "Why would Dan sleep with Anna when he is with Alice?" but "On what basis do we chart our liaisons?"
It becomes extremely difficult to move beyond characterization in Closer. The film is shot beautifully, where tight shots and angles are incorporated to suit the mood of the scene. You move through dislike and fondness for all four characters while they are being portrayed – visually and emotionally. While Portman as Alice is naïve and childishly thespian, Anna is quite the opposite with her inability to express the inner recesses of her mind. Julia Roberts is brilliantly cast for a silently volatile role like Anna. Dan catches on to the mysterious charm that Anna exudes, while she chooses to express bits and pieces of it with both Larry and him. Larry is like a typical savior. He moves between being a security blanket and a possessive maniac. It becomes a gripping visual when we see him (as with the other characters) switch between his roles.
Closer is a character driven film. My personal favorite character remains Alice. She’s young, and brings with her every baggage that a young person carries: Naiveté that translates into harsh judgments and impulsive decisions. Impulsiveness that translates into disregard for anything logical – doing what one pleases, even if it means taking the more hurtful path, just because you want to. The beauty of the film, then lies in its ability to move back and forth, in and out of every character’s motivations.
While there’s no plot to boast of, the background score is perfectly layered and deep, to suit the mood of the film. While the soundtrack of the film is largely minimal and soothing, using artists like Jem, Lisa Hannigan and The Smiths, ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ with its signature line, “I can’t take my eyes off of you” becomes like an anthem for the movie. Because at the end of it, every connection, every bit of complexity, every infidel association and every emotion is derived from a basic bottom-line of instinct. It’s as simple and strong as not being able to take your eyes off someone – whether you want to or not.
The DVD of Closer has an interview with the director Mike Nichols, while he talks about his motivations to adapt the film from a 1997 play of the same name. It also includes a theatrical trailer and a music video of Damien Rice’s ‘Blower’s Daughter’.
In a way, Closer is a lot like Alice’s personal character. It’s a film just because – no reasons are given for the decisions and actions that the characters take. No analyses about what their actions define about themselves, because life isn’t that easy. It’s an impulsive film, one that endorses multiplicity in many forms – relationships, thought and structure. But with a disclaimer.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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