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DCA Archive

Soft Subtitled Screening: The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola

Based on Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel, The Beguiled is a deliciously dark Southern Gothic tale about captors and captives set against the backdrop of the Civil War. Previously brought to the big screen by Don Siegel in 1971 with Clint Eastwood in a starring role, this new adaptation by Sofia Coppola explores this story of power and desire from an altogether different angle.

"As the women compete for his attention, the moral waters become very murky indeed..."

Colin Farrell plays the feckless but affable Corporal John McBurney, a wounded Union soldier who has left his regiment. Discovered hiding in the woods by one of the pupils from the nearby Farnsworth Seminary, he soon finds himself being tended to by teachers Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and their group of young charges. Although initially suspicious, gradually all the women warm to McBurney, who plays each of them off one another in an effort to stay alive. As the women compete for his attention, the moral waters become very murky indeed, and when McBurney’s duplicity becomes apparent so too does the women’s ruthlessness.

Coppola perfectly captures the stifling atmosphere of this isolated girl’s school where students are desperate for contact with the outside world and yet terrified at what it might bring. A place where manners and rituals mean everything is turned upside down as much by their hidden desires as by the stranger in their midst. Farrell excels as the vulnerable but calculating soldier and Kidman (who is a shining example of how to navigate your career in middle-age) is superb as the prim and proper Martha, who turns out to have nerves of steel. Keep an eye out too for young actress Addison Riecke as Marie, who has a natural comic gift we’ve not seen on screen in a long time, providing much needed light relief in a film which will have you on the edge of your seat throughout.