The Los Angeles Film Fest 2017 recently premiered the new film by esteemed Oscar winning director Sofia Coppola at the LACMA Bing Theatre. “The Beguiled” is a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 Civil war drama starring Clint Eastwood. It is a story of an injured soldier (Colin Farrell) taken into a confederate Southern boarding school run by Martha Farnsworth ( Nicole Kidman) and her students (Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, toplining an ensemble of unknowns). Soon sexual tension leads to dangerous rivalry as they attend to his wounds. In a q&a talkback, following the film, Coppola elaborated on her need for a change of scenery and period piece. “I knew I wanted to do something beautiful…” and beautiful, it was indeed, filled with Southern charm, corsets, and crinolines. The stellar cast are all superb in their roles, including the male lead (Ferrell), as the overly coddled soldier who pays a heavy price. Coppola expounded on how “the camera has always been an important part of her life.” In fact, during her studies in film school, she chose visual storytelling in the format of films rather than writing reports. She attributes Helmut Newton as a huge artistic influence on creating this film, as well as her flair for a dramatic feminist approach. “That is basically how “The Beguiled” came to be.” The result is an exquisite plot-driven production, filled with moss-draped oak trees, gothic Southern motif, a romance novel, with a tinge of horror genre. On working with Nicole Kidman; Kirsten Dunst; and Elle Fanning, Coppola stated, “I thought of Nicole when I envisioned the role and wrote the part. All of them brought so much of themselves to their characters.” Coppola challenged herself in the project by staying “more naturalistic and close to the period piece, with minimal soundtrack and rather, more emphasis on emotional tension. She attributes her success as a filmmaker to her privileged upbringing, as she was surrounded by “a lot of different people, on location with her dad, forcing herself to learn “how to fit in, and instinctively read the communication codes of a tribe.” In so doing, “The Beguiled,” this time, written from a woman’s point of view, is a romance suspense novel brought to life onscreen, revealing women’s instinctively intuitive, nurturing nature. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Kirsten Dunst stated, “when you see a Sofia movie, you know it’s a Sofia movie!”
As proven in her other films “The Virgin Suicides,” and “Lost in Translation,” (also shown at a later screening at the Bing that evening), Sofia Coppola is not just Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter, but a prominent director in her own right, with her own unique style. This, in my opinion, sets her apart as a budding icon. Her care and attention to the film’s details, such as costumes, setting and music, are “integral and powerful, evocative elements to the overall aura,” she tells the audience. Any subject she tackles, she clearly grabs the bull by its horns, and creates a verifiable masterpiece. This simple story is timely and topical for today’s intense political and societal arena, as it’s told by a female point of view rather than by the male perspective of the soldier. The film is clearly her successful attempt to specify the importance of women’s input in today’s world. She’s a true role model for women and I believe she’ll equal or exceed her father’s legacy.