Blog Directory CineVerse: Long night's journey into film appreciation

Long night's journey into film appreciation

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Filming a virtually verbatim production of Eugene O'Neil's "Long Day's Journey Into Night" would have been a challenging proposition, considering the sheer amount of verbiage, depressing scenario and claustrophobic confines of the dominant setting--the living room of the Tyrone family house. Still, the filmmakers acquit themselves nicely in this 1962 picture. Here's a recap of what CineVerse found meaningful about "Journey":

This is not a play that necessarily translates to a vibrant cinematic experience: instead, it’s very stage bound and arguably visually uninteresting in that there are not a lot of sets/settings, characters, camera movements, or creative edits. 
o Lumet doesn’t let the camera get in the way with showy setups, flashy camera movies, ostentatious cutting or other director-centric methods.
o Instead, he employs many uninterrupted master shots, refrains from using close-ups whenever possible, and minimizes camera movement. Two exceptions are: when he does a 360 degree circular tracking shot following Kathryn Hepburn around the room; and the penultimate shot that slowly zooms out from the quartet and displays unique window lighting, then suddenly cuts to a close up of Hepburn.
Yet, it is faithful and accurate to the actual play—cutting very little from the original and not adapting/reinterpreting the source material but actually using the play as the screenplay. The film is not given a tacked on happy Hollywood ending, and the hard edges of the characters are not softened for commercial appeal.
Despite a lack of visually arresting and naturally cinematic elements, despite the talkiness and dearth of action or plot, the story is absorbing because of the interesting characters and fascinating relationships and intelligent dialogue.
Part of what helps keep our interest is the way the play and the interactions between its characters are smartly structured: 
o Consider how the story consists primarily of various combinations of interactions between the 4 personalities—it presents the characters in virtually every possible combination: duo, trio, and quartet.
o Movie reviewer Dan Mancini suggested: “The characters' interactions reveal the family's history to us in complex non-linear fashion. For example, the secondary information we glean from a conversation between, say, Edmund and (James) may give us added insight into previous conversations between Edmund and Mary, and (James) and Mary, as well as illuminating a subsequent talk between Edmund and Jamie. In this way, O'Neill establishes the deep interconnectedness of the family.”  
o Many scenes also follow a circular construction in which, according to film reviewer Glenn Erickson: “characters start out on an even basis, move into an argument, and then retreat with apologies. Nothing is solved and nobody is moved is moved to action that might solve anything.” 
o It’s also written as an ensemble piece, without focusing on any one particular character as the lead, making the audience equally interested in all 4 primary roles. Likewise, each character has his/her unique flaw: mother’s is her morphine addiction; father’s is his alcoholism and parsimonious nature; Jamie’s is a lackadaisical attitude toward responsibility and a penchant for booze and women; Edmund’s is tuberculosis and alcoholism.
o The catalyst that sets all in motion here? The knowledge that Edmund is sick and waiting for his diagnosis.

The burdensome weight of memory and regret.
The power of the past to haunt the present and the future: the family seems doomed to relieve the mistakes and failures of the past day in, day out. Mary says: “The past is the present and the future, too.”
Inability to communicate: each family member knows how to fight and attack, but doesn’t listen, empathize or communicate well.
Tragedy and despair: things are not about to get better for this clan.

12 Angry Men
Murder on the Orient Express
Dog Day Afternoon
The Verdict
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

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