Liliath & Penumbra

Liliath & Penumbra

Diane Carol Harder, writer and filmmaker.

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The Captive (for Dear Cast and Crew)

November 5, 2015 , , , , , ,

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Dear Susan Shipton, Editor

I have one big question for you: was the use of flashbacks and flash-forwards inThe Captive your idea? Or was it director Atom Egoyan’s? I’m curious to know whether this was part of the screenplay’s original structure, or if it was a choice made during post-production, mainly because it seems to be the most divisive aspect of the film. I can’t decide how I feel about it, either.

I have to admit that telling the story this way forced me to think a little harder about what I was watching. This is not a criticism in and of itself, except that I’m not sure it was always necessary. Sometimes the temporal shifts felt like “a gimmick, a trick you didn’t need” (like Ryan Reynolds and his young daughter so aptly discuss during the scene right before she disappears).

Yet there’s also serious confusion surrounding important plot points and when they actually take place. (SPOILER ALERT!) It takes a long time, for instance, to reveal when Nicole, the detective played by Rosario Dawson, was actually kidnapped. This is the focus of the first scene of the film, but only actually happens last, chronologically – and this reveal feels anticlimactic after all the tension of trying to place it within the correct sequence of events, especially since it’s only a subplot to Cassandra’s disappearance.

But then, after I’d finished the film, when I really thought about it, this story device reminded me of the way my mind works when I obsess about something, thinking about it to the point of being overwhelmed, jumping from detail to memory to detail in no specific order while trying to figure out why something bad happened, something over which I ultimately had no control. So if that’s the feeling you were going for – a feeling of tense, OCD-like worry – then kudos.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the film, but can’t quite figure out how I feel about this method of storytelling. Was it a gimmick you didn’t need, or a great trick for helping us empathize with the characters?

Sincerely,
Diane

Standard Delivery (3 stars)

Directed by
Atom Egoyan
Written by
Atom Egoyan
David Fraser
Starring
Kevin Durand
Alexia Fast
Mireille Enos
Rosario Dawson
Ryan Reynolds
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