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Atonement: Vanguard for a new film trend?

The theme runs through several movies at the Venice festival.

August 27, 2007|From the Associated Press

VENICE, Italy -- Venice Film Festival Director Marco Mueller likens the 75-year-old festival to a seismograph that picks up emerging cinematic trends. If his instincts are right, the film world is about to be jolted by a movement focusing on atonement.

The film adaptation of Ian McEwan's bestseller "Atonement" by director Joe Wright turned out to be a fitting headliner for the festival, which, running Wednesday through Sept. 8, also showcases two films that deal with the Iraq war's impact.

The "festival is like a seismograph. It should try to transcribe faithfully every small movement that may announce a future theatrical earthquake," Mueller said. He added that its program reflects a sense of atonement, a sense of trying "to get away from something, from a certain way of living, from a moment in history."

"Something which is very evident in the films we have selected is that they want to move away from the culture and politics of war," he said.

The theme is expressed in Brian De Palma's "Redacted," a series of stories about U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah," which tells of an Iraq war veteran gone missing.

The film "Atonement," starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, tells of how a 13-year-old's accusation against her older sister's lover for a crime he did not commit changes the course of several lives.

Mueller said that cinematic movements from the French New Wave onward have developed from a shared urge among filmmakers to comment on the state of society. "It is very difficult to predict if it will happen again, [but] filmmakers have found themselves joined by the need to speak certain aesthetic truths about the current state of cinema. That is how new cinema is founded," he said.

If it happens, Mueller believes the 57 films chosen to show at Venice, 22 in competition, could be the harbinger.

Mueller said he found the aesthetic he described most strongly in English-language films -- and this year's competition features an unprecedented seven such movies -- a risky move by a director who has taken heat for putting Venice under Hollywood's sway since taking creative control in 2004.

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