Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Light Between Oceans (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Light Between Oceans

Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) echoes the melodramatic quandries of Thomas Hardy in his latest film "The Light Between Oceans," staring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender. The film is based on a novel by M.L. Stedman of the same name.

Fassbender is Tom Sherbourne, a World War I veteran who takes a post as a  lighthousekeeper in western Australia. He meets the gorgeous Isabel (Vikander) and they become inseparable. Isabel dreams of one thing: becoming a mother. As fate would have it, the couple have great difficulty in this regard.

Fassbender and Vikander are terrific, and the dilemmas expressed help ameliorate any formulaic predictability. Actor Rachel Weisz  also appears as a mysterious and driven mother.

A highlight of the film is the striking cinematography by Adam Arkapaw who depicts the remote Austrailian island as the surface of a moon embittered with black soot. Also symbolic are a pair of seahorse trinkets which point to Tom bearing the question of children by himself alone, lest we forget that it is the male seahorse that carries its offspring.

True, this is a handwringer of a film with an abundance of tears which fall in buckets. Yet it is a credit to Vikander and Fassbender that they carry such a push-me/ pull-you story with weight and spirit.

In addition to Thomas Hardy there is something of Kafka here too as Tom is caught in a fatalistic bind, crisscrossed with prison bars and braids of blonde hair. Like Joseph K, Tom's face remains an immobile jigsaw, a pieced together mask of silent panic.

In a web that is part biblical and Greek but most strongly Hardy, the subtle star-power of director Cianfrance combined with the actor pairing of Fassbender and Vikander hold together the weepy, Gothic trappings of "The Light Between Oceans", which in other hands would have ripped apart like wet tissue paper.

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