Text by Gabriele Niola
In collaboration with Badtaste.it
Translation by Bianca Baroni
Photography: Alessio Costantino
Derek Cianfrance is the creator of urban melodramas that are far from any kind of nostalgia or classicism and has a unique style in telling stories that are filled by impossible tragic feelings or pure ones. But for once in his career, he surrendered to classic. The Light Between Oceans comes from a book and is in line with the most traditional kind of the costume movies, where sex roles are so strongly defined in order to be hit by tragedies.
Early years of the past century. A man, wasted by the war, decides to become the lighthouse watchman in a tiny island between the oceans. He wants to live alone. The few contacts he has with the real world happen rarely, when he reaches the dry land, guest of a local family. The daughter of the patriarch falls in love with him and he loves her back, they get married and she moves with him to the lighthouse, where she seems to bring everything back to life, giving a sense to it all. The problems come when she finds out she can’t create life, she’s marked by two abortions and just when everything seems hopeless, an adrift boat carrying a baby and a corpse arrives at the lighthouse. They will keep the infant and that’s the moment when their odyssey of guilt and anxieties will begin.
Nobody is astonished that there’s the purest tragedy in this movie; it’s clear from the first look at the costumes and the hard weather conditions that the destiny will hit the characters: Cianfrance puts it all in scene very well. The lighthouse between the storms, hit by the wind and sea is the main protagonist of the best framings of a movie that can’t truly convey the real pain of its characters. There’s more suffering in the way in which the weather conditions dominate the movie than in the faces of the protagonists; there are more feelings and sensations in the world they live in (where it seems that pain is the only thing that can exist) than in their souls.
The problem of this story of misery, in which pain provokes actions that bring even more suffering, is that you can’t truly feel the real pain of the soul and that you can’t take part to the uncontrollable emotions that moves the events. Even though The Light Between Oceans replays the double structure of The Place Beyond The Pines (without the clear distinction in two parts), using two points of view for the same “contrast”, this duplicate isn’t used to walk emotional paths, different from what we are already used to.
The audience is there motionless, just like the lighthouse, looking at those desperate characters. Instead of being shocked from discovering where feelings settle, as it happened in Cianfrance’s previous movies, the spectators are so bored by the predictability of every reaction (and by a wittingly conventional acting) that even the worst tragedies slip away.