I’m trying hard to remember the details so I can share an in-depth response with you all but I can tell you this, my overwhelming feeling as the film ended was that I loved it. I would have very happily sat through it again as I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate the attention paid to the historical accuracy of the lavish sets or the beautiful detailing of the period costumes for both the men and women. I remember thinking that the score fit perfectly with the film although I cannot recall the detail of it now.
There was just so much happening on screen vying for my attention, not least of which was an extremely handsome leading man. And that’s what he was – a man – all man. He strode around with a confidence that put me in mind of Clark Gable or Cary Grant. It was so nice to see that Robert Pattinson was given the freedom, and I suspect the encouragement, to actually act – not just produce a performance to a given formula.
After hearing from the dynamic duo of Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod before the film, I’m not surprised at the passion that everyone involved obviously poured into the production. They said it was a labour of love. The actors took cut price salaries, but there is nothing cut price about their performances. The directors have a very impressive history in the theatre that adds a certain element to the film. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is; perhaps it is that some of the scenes could play perfectly on a stage without adaptation. It had a lovely feel to it.
Despite a strong dislike for Guy de Maupassant left over from my school days, as an adult, I read the book Bel Ami with an open mind. It just proved to me that although times may change and centuries may pass, human beings will always be the same. This book could have been written and set in modern times in terms of lust, greed, hunger for power, power games, political intrigue, international relations, corrupt media and plain old love, betrayal and forgiveness. While I’m aware that much of the politics from the book are merely alluded to in the film, it keeps the film from being heavy allows it move along at a nice pace.
I was given a hard time (TWSS) for focussing on the sex scenes when I gave my initial thoughts on the film on Sunday night. All I can say is: let she among you cast the first stone and all that LOL. Since I believe inquiring minds want to know – I will share. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know about them. First of all there are a lot of sex scenes, but let me tell you, they do not become boring; they are never the same. That’s not just because Georges changes his lovers more often than he changes the sheets on the bed! It was quite amusing to watch him hurry one lover out the door as he had an unplanned post coital nap and it was time for his next lover to arrive. You know you should want him to be caught and face the consequences, but he smiles that devilish smile and you are glad that he is not.
The first sex scene is the famous – or is it the infamous – nekkid arse thrusting scene between Georges and the prostitute. I don’t want to spoil the anticipation for you by giving too much detail; I know I am evil. It was quick, not that I’m implying Georges was quick even though the scene was. My DH takes great delight in the fact that Viggo Mortenson, another favourite actor of mine, has a skinny arse (it’s an undeniable fact). I took great pleasure in sharing the perfectness of Rob’s nekkid arse with DH on my return home; again, I know I am evil. There is lust fuelled sex, sex purely for gain, sex that is making love and sex between Georges and his wife that is quite disturbing. It is a tribute to the quality of the acting from Rob and the leading ladies that the difference is obvious each time.
I particularly liked the performance from Christina Ricci as she played Clotilde de Marelle as though she was born in that era. I’ve always liked Holiday Grainger since I saw her in A Bad Mother’s Handbook years ago and thought her a skilled actress. As Suzanne Rousset, she only has a relatively small part to play in the film but she plays it perfectly. She looks so happy and innocent walking down the aisle on her husband’s arm; I wonder does she have any understanding of the kind of marriage she has ahead of her or is she actually another player? Colm Meaney played the pompous Rousset magnificently and Philip Glenister played the unfortunate Foriestier very convincingly.
If you go to this film hoping to see the perfect man you will be sorely disappointed. Georges Duroy is more than easy on the eyes, the colours and cut of clothes suit his body shape and long legs very well. Look behind the facade though and you will find a very flawed character. He has come from a background of poverty and deprivation. He had a taste of wealth and the good life while in the army and upon his return to civilian life has once again to face the harsh reality of being poor. He believes he has the right to a better life and is driven by greed and ambition to use his good looks to further his aim. Without shame, he is manipulative and thoughtless as he uses and then discards those who can be of benefit to him. Somehow, underneath it all, you can see the poor boy who is desperate to never be hungry again, who loves a woman he can never fully have and who himself – in turn – is used and manipulated by others and even cheated upon. On paper Georges is a despicable cad; I don’t know how Rob did it, but on screen he managed to display Georges not just with all his faults, but also in his loneliness and desperation. He made me feel sorry for him; he made me wish love and happiness for him whether he deserved it or not.
There is no denying Bel Ami has strong dark themes. It is intense and dramatic, with outbursts of anger and violence, some sizzling sex scenes, but there are also moments of humour and love. It is beautifully set, nicely filmed and features some wonderful performances. There is something for everyone. I happily admit to being a fan of both Robert Pattinson and period films but really you don’t need to be either to enjoy this film. IMHO overall it’s a good entertaining story well told.
Thanks to Melbie for most of these pics!