I have never understood what people see in opera. Overgrown people in outlandish costumes screeching unintelligibly. For many years I avoided opera. But I always wondered what I might be missing. I certainly enjoyed the opera music used in movies and Bugs Bunny cartoons. So, with that thought to buoy me, a few years ago I attended a performance of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE. And found that I really did enjoy the music, and the costumes and the singing (turns out they use supertitles, which are like subtitles for opera)—for about 20 minutes.
Unwilling to concede, I decided that the problem was I had seen a comedic opera; what I needed to do was see a real opera, full of death and despair. So I went to see AIDA. The production had an incredible set and wonderful costumes and lighting. I squirmed in my seat until the bitter end. Stubbornly, I went to see OTELLO. This time I also noticed that people were actually dressed up; opera was still an “event,” even in our casual corner of the world. However, the relative glamor of the occasion was not enough to keep me from nodding off in the second act.
What is the point of this story? Simply this: Although I was able to appreciate the many elements that make opera a wonderful work of art, it was simply not my cup of tea.
Such is the case with UNDER THE SAND.
This is undeniably an excellent movie, with many wonderful elements. First is the story. The movie starts with Marie Drillon (Rampling) waking up from a nap on the beach to find that her husband Jean is missing. However, the movie is not about what happened to Jean. Instead, we focus on Marie, a year later, as she continues to struggle with her grief over the loss of her husband of 25 years. François Ozon and his co-writers have written a subtle but honest exploration of a woman who is slowly falling apart.
Next is the bravura performance by Charlotte Rampling, who carries the entire movie. She cuts such a beautiful and tragic figure, you simply cannot take your eyes off her. Rampling’s sensitive portrayal of an intelligent woman who is losing her sanity is sometimes too painful to watch.
Then there is the film itself, lovingly shot to create a pervasive mood of loss, and to reveal every detail of Rampling’s expressive face (a bold move for an actress indeed).
All these nice things being said, I am afraid I did not like UNDER THE SAND very much. My major problem was that the character of Marie does not progress at all, from the time a year after the incident until the end of the movie. No change, neither for the better or the worse. I do not mind saying that I like for something to happen during a movie, even if it takes the entire hour and a half for it to happen. Thus I found it too slow for my taste—and I like movies that take their time exploring issues and personalities.
So take this review with a grain of salt. UNDER THE SAND is a wonderful work of art. Just make sure it is your cup of tea.