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Film review: The Sunset Song – a story of a woman’s sheer grit

08 Nov 16

I had no idea what to expect when I entered the media screening of The Sunset Song - admittedly I was a few minutes late because I was waiting for my fries to come, which meant I ended up in the neck-straining front row.

However, as I ambled my way to the front, I was presented with a beautiful rural country side, set in the early 1900s just before World War 1. When they began speaking it was clear that it was in Scotland, although after the film I had a geeze on Google and discovered that it was in fact filmed in Scotland, Luxembourg and yes, believe it or not, New Zealand.

Adapted from the 1932 novel of Lewis Grassic, The Sunset Song takes viewers through six years in the life of a girl named Chris, one of the numerous children of a tyrannical Scottish farmer. The scenery throughout the film is absolutely stunning, however it is rudely interrupted by some shocking scenes that are strategically placed throughout the movie.

Without giving the plot away, the film employs some beautiful cinematography to show a woman coming of age and how she gets through life in the wake of somewhat cruel times of the early 1900s, with complete male dominance, strict religious views, rigid social opinions and a rapidly approaching World War.

Initially the movie is very slow paced and positive (while still being interspersed with the aforementioned shocking acts, mostly performed by Chris’s father), and at one point I thought the film was about to finish. Boy was I wrong.

The carefully constructed, very Hollywoodesque model of everything seeming to turn out all right was soon flushed down the toilet with the onset of the war. Cue more violent and tear-jerking moments (there must have been some dust in my eye) before the film finishes with another beautiful shot of the landscape, a determined Chris and some soul-strengthening narrative.

Walking out of the film, I thought that not a lot actually happened, but the way it was filmed and how the actors portrayed it meant that it was actually a great piece of work. At the end of the day, the simple fact that my girlfriend and I were talking about the film and comparing notes (not literally of course) the whole way home says a lot about its integrity.

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