Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Never Let Me Go (Rhoades)

“Never Let Me Go” Holds Onto Bleak Future
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

You’d think it was one of those oh-so-British Merchant Ivory films that lingers lovingly on the past. After all, “Never Let Me Go” was penned by Kazuo Ishiguro, the same author who gave us “Remains of the Day.” However, this story about three children at a boarding school takes place in the dystopian future.

Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth (played by Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley) attend Hailsham, an idyllic English boarding school where they students are told they are special. Yes, like Kobe beef.

They are being raised to become organ donors in this futuristic world that seems only a few degrees off today’s reality.

The story is narrated by Kathy, now grown, having left the school to become a “carer,” those who administer to donors. She recalls the love triangle between her and two schoolmates.

Told in parts, the film is directed by Chicago-born Mark Romanek. London-born Alex Garland wrote the screenplay based on Ishiguro’s novel.

Both have sci-fi DNA in their genetic makeup: Romanek credits seeing Stanley Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey” at the age of nine with inspiring him to become a film director. Garland wrote the screenplay for Danny Boyle's zombiefest, “28 Days Later.”

“Never Let Me go” was produced by DNA Films and Film4.

But it’s Kazuo Ishiguro’s macabre vision that drives the story. He wanted to write a book about a group of young people on a campus with a Seventies atmosphere. “They hung around and argued about books,” he says of the characters. “I knew there was this strange fate hanging over them, but I couldn’t work out exactly what it was.”

Only after listening to a radio program about biotechnology did the fate of his
students become clear to him.

His wife wasn’t impressed. She thought a “campus novel” was sufficiently horrifying in itself, forget about clones and harvesting organs.

Before the book was published in 2005, Alex Garland had already written a 96-page script for a possible film and passed it along to the producers.

The cast is superb. You’ve seen Carey Mulligan in “An Education” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Andrew Garfield was recently in “The Social Network” and is slated to become the next Spider-Man. Keira Knightley is the iconic young actress from “Atonement,” “Pride & Prejudice,” and those “Pirates of the Caribbean” adventures.

Best known for music videos, director Mark Romanek was eager to sign onto the project. “I knew I was going to be pointing my camera at British things. And what if I tried to have sort of a Japanese sensibility about it? So I learned about several Japanese concepts. One of them was this idea of ‘yugen’ which is the calm surface that belies the deep strong currents underneath. There’s a beautiful idea in yugen which comes from Noh theater, which is this idea of the kind of joyful acceptance of the basic sadness of life, which is, I feel like, where Kathy ends up at the end of the film, which is what’s so moving to me about it, and was so moving about the end of the book.”

Although Kazuo Ishiguro came to England at age 5, he was born in Nagasaki, Japan. So he knows that life can be strange and terrifying and not how we imagined it to be. Even at a fine old institution like Hailsham.
[from Solares Hill]

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