Sunday, 16 November 2014

Mr. Turner (4 Stars)

Painting is silent poetry.

Normally I wouldn't have gone to see this film in the cinema. It's a film about a 19th Century painter, hardly a subject that interests me. If it were at least a controversial painter like Vincent Van Gogh I might have been tempted. I vaguely remember seeing pictures of William Turner's paintings, boring landscapes (though I learnt from the film that he painted the sea more than land). Boring to me at least. People who know more about art probably think differently.

But then a couple of things changed my mind. I read that "Mr. Turner" is one of the favourites to win the Best Film Oscar next year. Added to this a friend of mine told me it's the best film he's seen this year, so I had to give it a chance.

I had problems with the film from the start. Since William Turner was a relatively wealthy person, the film has the atmosphere of a costume drama. All the men wear smart suits and top hats. Then I began to dislike William Turner when I saw that he was a cheater, keeping two mistresses in different towns who knew nothing of one another. He also visited brothels, although in the one scene that we see he merely made the prostitute pose for him rather than having sex with her.

But as the film continued, snaking through the years of his life, I was won over by Timothy Spall's masterful acting. I don't think the film deserves to be voted best film at the next Academy Awards, but it certainly deserves a prize for its cinematography. The outdoor scenes are in soft colours that imitate his artwork. It's interesting to see that he was criticised for his excessive number of paintings of ships at sea. For some reason he was particularly fond of painting shipwrecks.

During his life William Turner only sold a small number of paintings. In his Will he decreed that all of his paintings should be left to the "British nation". It was his wish that everyone should be allowed to see all of his paintings on display in one place for free. Due to the sheer volume of his work -- over 19,000 paintings and sketches -- it hasn't been possible to present them in a single display, but they are in the hands of British museums and art galleries, in particular the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery.

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