Tuesday, September 9, 2008


In the film, Atonement, the costumes and sets remind one how much was lost in the war, and how much the English sacrificed to win.
I loved how water divides and united the characters. The lovers Cecilia and Robbie die in different tunnels—the soldier stands at the shore he thinks divides him from his love, but she is floating in the same water, when the London tunnel she’s come to as a bomb shelter floods.
As a young girl, Briony wants to know that Robbie will save her from drowning. Later, she wishes she could save him or her sister. Briony atones by making them live on in her head.
Robbie saves Briony from drowning, then yells at her. He rescues the twins lost at night in the wild and is arrested on his return for child abuse, because of Briony’s confused accusation. Robbie makes mistakes, too: his passion for Briony’s sister causes her to break the vase, and he mails the obscene letter, wrongly choosing to entrust it to the child Briony.
The one act of lovemaking in the book also breaks things—Briony’s faith and the barriers between class. Is love selfish and violent? In youth, yes, but the war is a purifying fire. Perhaps Cecilia should have tested Robbie, to see if he could save her. But no one can save loved ones in the war; one can only try to save anyone one comes upon. The scene of the sisters in the hospital is echoed in the slaughtered girls that Robbie stumbles upon. The characters put aside selfish desire and devote themselves to selfless service.