Mr TurnerLondon Film Festival 2014
Friday 10th October, 6pm – Odeon West End 2
Saturday 11th October, 11am – Odeon West End 2
Mike Leigh’s William Turner might not be the Turner that history nuts were hoping for, but he might just be the most compelling version of the unconventional artist that audiences see for a long time to come.
Part biopic and period drama, Mr Turner deals solely with the latter part of the great painter’s life. Already married, though he’d never care to admit it, and with a celebrated style depicting naval battle scenes and local seascapes, Turner is already a well established name in the arts world, and much more besides.
He’s not arrogant, but nor is he shy: Turner is a man who escapes such easy classifications with a host of eccentricities all his own. He moves gruffly from encounter to encounter, responding either articulately with a well-reasoned argument and enlightened criticism, or with little more than a grunt for those with whom he converses.
That’s not to say Leigh’s Turner is not expressive, but that his emotions defy convention. With a constantly furrowed brow, Timothy Spall conveys an incredible depth of reactions with the subtlest of facial expression, the most incomprehensible grunts and even just the grip of his hands behind his back. Spall is joined by excellent performances across the board from likes of Dorothy Atkinson, Paul Jesson and Ruth Sheen among others, but it’s important to note that characters are often exaggerated and overblown. Caricature is the word of the day, but what’s interesting is the depth of emotion that’s still conveyed.
The act of painting is a thorough focus in the film, and Turner is a constant surprise in this regard. With none of the finesse or delicacy that you might expect from a creative, Turner has the work method of a tradesman: clutching his brush in a fist, often spitting on his canvas to loosen the oils, his method of work speaks to who he is, and acts as an important window into the character.
As you’d expect, the scenery is astonishing. From the vividly shot coastal scenes to the luscious greens of Snowden, there’s an artistry in the locations that almost rivals Turner himself. The shots of the surrounding countryside on his travels help to build a rythm that fits with the story and the man himself.
It’s only a matter of time before Turner’s end grows near, but by this time his renown has also begun to diminish. As Turner finds himself edging ever closer to contentment, he battles the belittlement of his name and loses faith in the business of art. Fighting against the status quo makes a fitting end to such a peculiar and intriguing character, and Leigh’s latest work captures his journey excellently.
Mr Turner is released nationwide on 31st October 2014.
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Watch the trailer for Mr Turner here: