Sunday, July 4, 2010

Closer (2004)

Review, Analysis, Comparison.

If I had to summarize Closer, the play by Patrick Marber (who also wrote the screenplay), I would say that it is a simple, sometimes unreal, story about love and companionship and how complicated such things can be if one does not believe in them. In fact, when I read the play, even though I liked it very much, I didn’t think it was anything unusual or special. The story is approached and told different than the others, but it is still just another story about love and relationships - a story about four really complicated people seen at different points in time through a third person approach. But after seeing the film by Mike Nichols, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. The dialogues were the same, but the body language of the actors told an entirely new story. The film just had so much more, even though it did everything exactly like the play. And after trying to figure out what the film was all about, I have to say I was moved by the sheer beauty of the film’s approach to the play.

Ever since the first scene of the film, the director is trying to tell us, the viewers, something. “You’re just too good to be true, I just can’t take my eyes off of you”- when I saw the first sequence with Alice (Natalie Portman) and heard this song in the background, I just assumed, like most, Nichols is gesturing to Alice’s physical beauty and attraction. After I had finished the film I started thinking that why did Nichols do everything that the play did, have every single dialogue appear word to word, but have two completely new sequences at the beginning and the end. And then it came to me. Alice IS too good to be true. Closer the play is a story about four people as seen by the audience, but Closer the film is a story about three people being seen and observed by Alice, who is a personification of the audience.In the film, Nichols concentrates on Alice the whole time, starting with the first scene which is not in the play where the song is telling us to keep our eyes on Alice. She is the one character we are told the least about, and after seeing the other characters and their behavior, we end up feeling that we don’t know them at all, and in fact, neither do those people themselves. So by the end we find ourselves feeling for Alice, since she is the only one we can actually see through.
Throughout the film, and the play, we see Larry (Clive Owen), Anna (Julia Roberts), and Dan (Jude Law) making decisions - taking some kind of action that affects the others, including Alice, making her always a part of the consequence of their actions. To Alice these people and this world is as unreal as it is to the viewers - that is evident by the first scene where we see her looking to the left before crossing the street(since people drive on the right side of the road in the United States), not knowing that in London cars come from the opposite side. She comes to London and she meets Dan, she takes a new name and in a way experiments with the people she meets. She observes, asks questions, but is seldom the one who makes any decisions. The only time we hear her opinion about anything is in the art gallery, and even then her response is “Everything is a lie”.

Of all the three characters we meet in London, Larry is, in my opinion, the closest to being normal or real. Alice feels the same and that is probably why she tells him her real name. But Larry fails to pass Alice’s test. She decides to trust Dan in the end by taking him to New York, but seeing that he hasn’t changed she gives up all hope. When he still questions her even though he knows the truth, I gave up looking for any reason to feel bad for Dan’s character. And again Alice does exactly what everyone in the audience would have probably done. The people of London disappoint her. In fact, Alice feels that if she stays here she will become like Anna - who in a way seems like a much older Alice - an American who got lost in London, pretending. Alice decides to go back home where people carry their emotions on their faces, that can be inferred by the last scene where the guys who see her pass by just stare at her, looking back at her in awe. She is content to be home where people don’t have deceptive faces that hide their complicated emotions and personalities.

The one scene, or in fact, the one line that explains and proves my theory is at the end of the film where Alice says to Dan "I would have loved you, forever". This one line is what made me realize what Alice’s role is in the story. We are put into Alice’s shoes from the first scene till the end. Alice is the audience, who throughout the film observes the people, the world which is new to her just like the audience, and in the end, just like how the audience decides what they think about the characters after seeing them throughout the film, she decides that these people are just messed up, and again just like the audience, we see her coming back to the real world, and keep on living her life. Marber’s decision to not kill Alice in the end (of the film, she dies in the play) hints that she signifies a lot more than just a character. Some would say that the red stop sign means she dies, but we can also see the other people walking too, not like the first scene where the other people stop behind her.
This film takes the art of story telling to a whole new level, and it does not even take credit for it. Till now, when we saw a film we were only limited to watch what the characters do - from a seat far away in another dimension. In Closer, we are not only given a more personal approach, but an entire character to transform into. We are taken a lot more ‘closer’ to a film or story than ever before. This film, to me, is a one of a kind so rare I doubt we would be able to see more of; all due to the cinematic genius of Mike Nichols, the absolutely brilliant and perfect cast, and, what I have now come to believe, the enchanting story by Patrick Marber.


  1. Excellent review!!
    Though have not seen the movie, not even heard of it.
    WOuld certainly like to see it now, to follow the remarkable deduction made on Alice's character.

    The reason I found it stupendous is because I found this 'perspective' theory recently in another media.
    Am not sure if you'd be interested, still that am here let me divulge it..
    Ramayan - the epic on victory of Good over Evil, is the story of an ideal man Ram!
    At different junctures of his life, his excellence, his Godly courage and decisions are elaborated. Various people who stumble on his way, rever him like a God (quite an unbelievable upright human!!). Making it very difficult to understand or follow the Ram as a person.

    But all mysteries got solved when I read excerpts of Ashok Banker's book on Ramayan. His excellent interpretation of Ram as a thinking person, his debates and confusions with oneself, makes it completely believeble now!

    And thats why this review became all the more interesting to me!! Will grab the movie asap!!

  2. Deep n intriguing thoughts Lakshya. Wil pik this one up when I'm home.

    @Meprententious - sup? The review is from my bro. Hollywood freak like I told you :) expect the unexpected n rarely-heard-of stuff from him.


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