Mr Turner

2014-12-19 14:08
What's it about:

Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father and loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.

What we thought:

One of England’s most famous painters, J.M.W Turner was known for his watercolour landscapes and nautical art. Mr Turner explores the last 25 years of his life, which held the death of his father and the start of his long 'secret' relationship with a widow. Besides these two events, not much else happens.

Although it contested the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (with a Best Actor win for Timothy Spall), this is not a general public film. Its target market is the art lovers, students and aficionados. Its pace and movement is like watching a painting – lovely to look at but you will get bored quickly. When the funniest scene in the movie is the longest conversation about gooseberries you have ever heard, then you know you are in for a long haul.

Timothy Spall (mostly known as the treacherous Wormtail from Harry Potter) is an actor much deserving of a lead role in a film, and the awards he received so far for Mr Turner shows the strength of his performances. Although he grunted mostly throughout the film, he could say a lot with a few well-toned grunts, rounding out the character of Turner – who turned out to have been a very unpleasant man. The actresses playing the two women in Turner’s life, played by Dorothy Atkinson and Marion Bailey, partnered well with Spall’s prominence on the screen.

As for cinematography, Mr Turner took many cues from the painter’s own work, recreating the style and composition onscreen, creating a film that looks like artwork itself. Along with Spall this is the other reason the film is raking in awards, bringing art to life as well as the politics of England’s Royal Academy of Arts, a hostile environment where artists vie for the praise of the royals.

A pure art film, this is not something for the whole family or those who lean more towards the blockbuster. Be prepared for a long haul and make sure that art is a big part of your passions, otherwise you will painting some z’s in the air.

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