Written by Films

Far From Heaven

Every year the London Film Festival has a surprise film, and this was the second time I’ve been to it. It always sells out, and the simple thing is that you don’t know what you’re going to see. It will be a different film to the rest of the festival, a preview of something forthcoming. So what was it going to be? Gangs of New York, Die Another Day, The Two Towers? No. It was never going to be any of them.
Far From Heaven is the first Todd Haynes film I’ve seen, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Now I must say that afterwards he came on for a Q&A with Sandra Hebron, the LFF’s Artistic Director who told us she really wanted to get this film for the festival.
So before going into a little of what I learnt afterwards, here are my first thoughts. The film is very much a melodrama – it’s very stylised, and enormously evocative of the 50s. It was obvious to me that it was trying to pay respects to a certain style of fifties film, but without trying to be post-modern. The story is about an all-American couple who have the perfect life in Hartford, until the husband (Dennis Quaid) faces up to his homosexuality and the wife (Julianne Moore), begins to have feelings for her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert) in segregated America. It made enormously clear that Quaid’s character’s sexuality is something you could barely even talk about it that setting. And crossing racial boundaries is seen as bad from a black perspective as it is from a white one.
The film’s colours are vivid, and the Elmer Bernstein score is unmissable. The set decoration and clothing are fantastically realised for the 1957/8 setting.
Afterwards, having thoroughly enjoyed it, I learnt more from the Q&A. The film is not just an homage to the fifties, but specifically to the films of Douglas Sirk. He made a certain type of melodrama particularly througout the fifties particularly for Universal. I went to IMDB and looked at his films, and must say that I don’t recall seeing a single one. Probably a lapse on my part, but these films, making stars of the likes of Rock Hudson, simply don’t get shown on TV these days.
Overall a fascinating talk, and I will certainly be looking out for the films of Douglas Sirk from now on.