Mr Jones, despite being a 1933 period piece, has thematic content markedly relevant to our current time. Agenda-driven fake news prevails, journalists battle against the control of the government and but there is an underlying pursuit of truth. Agnieszka Holland’s film charts the real-life story of Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist who exposed the starvation-inducing regime of Stalinist Russia. George Orwell is said to have got the inspiration for his seminal allegorical novel Animal Farm from the journalist’s journey.
The form of the film is quite dizzying. It is interwoven with scenes of George Orwell hacking away at his typewriter. With each return, more animals flood the frame and, eventually, wooden statuettes appear. Granted, it’s a tall order to seamlessly make a film about a book written by a man who met a journalist who broke a story about Stalinist Russia.
The movie’s style is equally disorienting. In an attempt to ground it in reality there are archival montages of worn-down factory workers cut into the film. They feel wholly out of place. Counter-productively, they simply serve to show dissimilarities in the production design and characters who look nothing like the footage. James Norton takes the naive but courageous titular role and is supported by Vanessa Kirby as Ada Brooks, a journalist stationed in Moscow. They are clumsily clunked into space and struggle to bring much to the trope-filled roles.
Nonetheless, Holland does handle the tricky subject well staying clear of aestheticising the skeletal bodies scattered across the country. She is careful to make the film about the vitality of a functioning press rather than superfluously embellishing the tragedies that the journalist witnesses. Mr Jones makes a case for its importance but struggles to break through.
Mr Jones does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from Mr Jones here: