Saturday, August 27, 2016

Indignation (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


James Schamus (writer of The Ice Storm) directs a tense and mysterious adaptation of Phillip Roth's novel Indignation  in a debut film of the same name. The film is visceral, punchy, haunting and full of inky gloom. In depicting the smarmy imposition of control within the glossy and abundant era of the 1950's, "Indignation" echoes the Nicholas Ray classic "Rebel Without a Cause."

In the era of the Korean War, Marcus (Logan Lerman) is going off to study at Winesburg College. The young man is a bookworm and nothing gets in his way. By chance, he meets an enigmatic blonde Olivia (Sarah Gadon). Needless to say, he is hooked.

Despite his newfound desire, life at college becomes constricting. A fraternity house pressures him. Flosser (Ben Rosenfield) a verbose and theatrical roommate is unbearable while another seethes with violent envy. To complicate matters, Marcus's father grows increasingly manic and controlling.

One day, after a room change, the young student gets summoned to the dean's office.  Dean Caudwell (excellently portrayed by the playwright Tracy Letts) needles him mercilessly, despite a perfect academic record, about his lack of religious practice and his social life. Marcus is sweaty but steadfast; he believes in the writings of the free thinker Bertrand Russell.

Then he collapses and is taken to the hospital. Olivia enters like Madeleine in Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." The young girl is a dreamy and voluptuous vision and she promptly gives him pleasure under the sheets.

Marcus's mother (Linda Emond) is none too pleased with Olivia and tells him so. He must promise her never to see the wayward girl again. The apprehension builds slowly to the film's credit as we see Marcus's optimism slowly erode to fear and an uncomprehending worry under the strain.

Lerman is terrific, as is Gadon who smolders with anarchistic sensuality. Like Kim Novak before her, Sarah Gadon's tosses and spills of hair and flesh are under restraint, but just so. To conformist eyes, Olivia is the girl next door. Yet, she alone turns Marcus into a momentary voyeur ala James Stewart's 'Scottie' in the Hitchcock tradition.

Slowly and with rhythm, a manicured college lawn leads to an ominous cemetery. In "Indignation" a string of apparent incidental circumstances make a noose.

Write Ian at

No comments: