Double feature: Some witnesses to an event never testify, but rather take the evidence they see under their own advisement and immediately reach their own verdicts, mete out their own justice.
In the case of both “Atonement” and “The Piano,”
*these witnesses are young girls,
*the events they observe and interpret (from the remove of a windowpane) involve furtive dealings between one of their close female relatives and a man with a tangential relationship to their household, *and the justice they deal with their own hands has consequences beyond the grasp of their comprehension.
Whether the events they witness are equally beyond their comprehension is up for debate. In both films, the girls’ reactions are complex enough to make us question whether they stem from innocent lack of understanding or an intuitive grasp of the situation’s implications and a willful rebellion against them. Fear, bi-directional jealousy, and some kind of excitement are mixed in as well, and activate preservation instincts in the girls that are more animalistic than rational.
With this shared plot point, both films illustrate the degree to which an event – or a relationship – and its interpretation by outside parties diverge into separate trajectories.
For a marathon: “Atonement” likely borrowed much of its clenched atmosphere from repeated viewings of “Brief Encounter,” another WWII-set film.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “Sifu Renka” and “net_efekt” at Flickr)