I finally got to see Atonement last week.
A great film, which stayed with me for days afterwards – always a good sign. A wonderful performance by the girl playing the young Briony Tallis and even Keira Knightley managed not to set my teeth on edge too much. And James McAvoy is of course very easy on the eye. In fact the whole film is ravishingly shot – it must win Oscars for cinematography if nothing else.
It was also a very faithful adaptation of Ian McEwan’s book and managed to conjure up the same atmosphere with images and sound that he does with words.
The evocation of a hot, humid, sticky, oppressive English summer’s day is particularly well done in the film. This article is well worth reading as it explains how the set designers went about creating the atmosphere of an overblown, high summer day, just tipping into decay, by adding lots of green to the set (including, obviously, Keira’s iconic green dress).
Stokesay Court was the house used, unusually, for filming both interior and outside shots, and it appears to be a fabulous example of Victorian nouveau riche excess and lack of taste.
Every single surface is overloaded with pseudo-Elizabethan, Jacobean, Gothic, you name it ornamentation and really serves to heighten the sense of brooding oppression and of a rigid class system which the war is about to tear apart.
This article from the Daily Mail gives a really interesting history of the house and also tells how production designer Sarah Greenwood chose the house for its dark, stolid wooden inner hallway – the dark heart of the house and evocative of the story’s dark heart. (Cue lots of scenes of Cecilia and Briony swishing up and down the staircase).
It also explains how one whole (ugly) wing of the house was photoshopped (or whatever the movie equivalent is) out in the film.
All photos from the Stokesay Court website.