Beloved (1998)

JONATHAN DEMME

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1998.  Harpo Films, Clinica Estetico, Touchstone Pictures.  Screenplay by , , , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Jonathan Demme, , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  Academy Awards 1998.  

Rich storytelling and absolutely stunning production design by Kristi Zea contribute greatly to this adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.  Oprah Winfrey, in her first big screen venture since she debuted with The Colour Purple in 1985, stars (and also produced) as Sethe, an escaped slave living in Ohio who must abide with the ghost of her dead child, leaving her surviving daughter Denver () driven to the depths of despair and her other two sons running away to avoid the evil spirit. Enter an old friend (), and a mysteriously ailing young woman who only calls herself Beloved () who needs their care. The film’s tedious pace will be torture for some, but Jonathan Demme only emphasizes how much there really is to process by slowing it down and letting the audience really soak the story up piece by piece. Winfrey’s performance proves how regrettable it is that she doesn’t make movies more often, and Elise does exceptionally well considering hers is the more subdued of the young women’s roles. Costumes by Colleen Atwood are among the best of her career and the cinematography by Tak Fujimoto couldn’t be more haunting.

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