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February 25, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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Atonement: Adapting a Meta-Novel

Ian McEwan’s Atonement is a meta-novel: the narrator, Briony Tallis, critiques her own writing and re-writes the narrative as she goes along, layering deceptions and revelations upon one another. Meta-novels make notoriously bad films, and often fall back on narration in order to preserve their self-critique.

The film version of Atonement avoids these pitfalls. The final revelation, which in the book takes the form of a private author’s note, takes the form of a television interview in the film – a simple but effective trick. But the best aspect of this adaptation, which justifies the film’s existence, is the sound. Each character has a motif: Briony is the typewriter, Cecilia is a piano. These motifs play off and against one another to signify the characters’ inner mental states in the absence of narration. A little like Wagner, only without the fascist undertones..

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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