My first exposure to Todd Haynes, let’s see how this turns out!
Written By: Todd Haynes
Directed By: Todd Haynes
The amoral approach to film making is often looked down upon. It’s felt that you have to take a stance, that to simply show the events as they play out somehow condones said actions. If ever there was a movie for people to look at and say, “Oh, I get it now”, Far From Heaven is that movie. It doesn’t take a stance once, on racism, homosexuality, family life, marriage or 1950’s culture. It presents these characters and this time period as they happen and the issues faced are a natural part of the films place and time.
Of course it didn’t surprise me to see some reviewers in an uproar over the fact that Far From Heaven vilifies 1950’s values. To those people, the ones who still believe that somehow and in some way the 1950’s were a better time when the world was clearly a better place I say it’s time to take off the rose colored glasses. By taking an amoral approach Far From Heaven exposes the truth of that point in American history better than any morality play could. We have advanced as a society, some for the good some for the bad, but the 1950’s in America were far from perfect, in a lot of ways they were just as scary as today can be.
I can’t claim to be familiar with the works of Douglas Sirk, therefore the idea of Far From Heaven as a recreation of his style of film making doesn’t resonate with me. However, I can clearly see the 1950’s film and TV aesthetic at work. It isn’t a homage, but rather it is a full fledged recreation. The people are genuine, the visuals are genuine, the setting is genuine, the dialogue is genuine, the film feels like a genuine 1950’s production. Based on what I have heard about Sirk I have always wanted to explore his films, and Far From Heaven only enhances that desire, but at the same time I hope that people watch Far From Heaven and realize it is its own picture and needn’t be tied directly to the works of anyone else.
Talking about the set design seems redundant, but I shall briefly touch on that aspect of Far From Heaven. It isn’t just the set design though, it’s the way the film is shot, the colors used and the atmosphere the film is drenched with. Far From Heaven is a vibrant film, it is a film with one set after another that is finely detailed and authentic. At the same time the entire atmosphere of Far From Heaven is one of fake sincerity. Based on what my relatives have told me of the 1950’s this rings incredibly true, no one had any problems because it was better to be fake happy than honestly depressed. Far From Heaven is fake in the best of ways, yet another instance of how Todd Haynes has perfectly constructed his film.
Their are other interesting factors, such as the acting or the willingness to allow Dennis Quaid to disappear for giant chunks at a time as would befit a 1950’s husband and father. Alas, I have babbled on long enough. Far From Heaven is a beautiful picture, but it is also an honest picture. Offering a portrait of a time and place that we would rather not know about. Far From Heaven looks beneath all the formality and niceties to get to the heart of the time in question and going along for that journey was a true joy.