Drama (US); 1998;
Rated R; 172 Minutes
Oprah Winfrey: Sethe
Danny Glover: Paul D
Thandie Newton: Beloved
Kimberly Elise: Denver
Beah Richards: Baby Suggs
Produced by Ronald
M. Bozman, Jonathan Demme, Kate Forte, Gary Goetzman, Edward
Saxon, Steven Shareshian and Oprah Winfrey; Directed
by Jonathan Demme; Screenwritten by Akosua Busia,
Richard LaGravenese and Adam Brooks
by DAVID KEYES
Demme’s "Beloved" constructs itself like the Earth’s interior.
Within the essence of its existence lies the core, the source
of importance, and all around it are these numerous, equally-important
layers that can’t survive without the others. These extra
layers are formed by the events brought on by the core,
and as time passes by, they evolve together to demonstrate
a change in life and evolution. Even as this movie ends,
the process of it’s growth does not stop. The forces of
it remain in a thought-provoking sense within our minds.
Days after seeing it, things you witnessed continue to construct.
As it continues, you realize that this evolution of these
layers continues to change, and will probably never stop.
The movie will remain on our minds probably for the rest
of our lives.
this lyrical metaphor, "Beloved" announces itself onto the
screen by giving us the internal layer of an important,
growing story. It takes place near the end of the American
slavery period, where Sethe, played by Oprah Winfrey, lives
her life like a typical African-American woman who has recently
been subject to freedom. She seems, on the outside, like
the average woman in the south proud of her freedom, but
as we slowly learn in outside layers of her personality,
she stopped at nothing to prevent her children from experiencing
the trauma and humiliation she had endured during her time
as a slave. Considering to herself that nothing is worse
than slavery, she planned to kill her four children in order
to prevent them experiencing such cruel circumstances. When
she managed to murder one of them, appropriately named Beloved,
she was caught in her act and thus prevented from doing
this to her other offspring. Years later, when giving birth
to a new daughter named Denver (Kimberly Elise), the breaking
of the water sack during labor was a spiritual sign that
permitted her daughter, Beloved, to be resurrected. As the
movie demonstrates in one of its thought-provoking opening
scenes, Sethe’s house is haunted by the spirit of Beloved,
with red light flickering in the foreground of the house.
Paul D, played by Danny Glover, sees this light when he
attempts to enter her house. Seeing it, he asks "What kinda
evil do ya got in there?" But Sethe, being a woman of confused
motives and spiritual understanding, replies, "it ain’t
evil. Just sad."
is a character that is constructed just like the plot. She
seems normal on the outside layer, but within her soul lies
torment and aggression, as if the core is made of things
unique to her surroundings. Normally, one wouldn’t consider
death an easy way out (even for slavery), but who’s to say
she did the wrong thing, though? After all, we’re talking
about one of America’s darkest ages, and we’re talking about
a woman who, probably, thought deep in her mind that there
was no easier way out.
our attention does not last on her. A little later in the
movie, she discovers Beloved, now in human form, instead
of the spiritual. Beloved at this point bears the body and
tendencies of the average teenage girl, yet the mind of
an infant, which was the state she was originally murdered
in. Thandie Newton, who plays the title character, approaches
her role in the best way possible. She brings life to the
character with her limited mind span and her human form.
She seems like a teenager, but has the intelligence of the
child she truly is. And we believe it; Thandie Newton makes
sure that we believe she’s still an infant on the inside.
one scene, for example, she and Denver witness two turtles
in a mating situation. Beloved, carrying the hormones of
a teenager and the mind of a child, grows curious of this
process and asks Paul D, at one point, to "touch her on
the inside part."
are so many more constructed situations that evolve this
story that they are too numerous to calculate. All of them
relate to what the premise gives us; what drove Sethe to
decide the fate of her children? Was she that desperate?
Was she that confused? Was that the right or wrong choice?
How does she feel about it after Beloved’s rebirth?
come together and leave us with several thought-provoking
questions on our minds. This is probably one of the most
difficult films that you can ever attempt to follow, and
it seems obvious that you think about the movie long after
you’ve seen it. Sometimes, it may be helpful to see it again,
so the mental picture of these numerous situations comes
together a little clearer.
metaphors and psychological torment and emotion the movie
indulges us in is proof that Jonathan Demme and his crew
members went through hell themselves to make this movie.
The film, which follows a Pulitzer-Prize novel by Tony Morrison,
documents the evils and horrors of slavery, as well as the
passion and meanings of family relationships and the force
of life. Our decisions and actions all have consequences.
Two questions remain: which decisions do we make and are
they the best ones for these situations?
take all of these into context, and "Beloved" emerges the
best movie of 1998. Considering what this industry has been
through this year, no 1998 movie will surpass its superiority.
It’s a promise. There will be none.
1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.