"Atonement” is one of the few adaptations that gives a splendid novel the film it deserves." - The Los Angeles Times
An article in Wikipedia discusses how: "the word 'atonement' gained widespread use in the sixteenth century after William Tyndale recognized that there was not a direct translation of the concept into English. In order to explain the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, which accomplished both the remission of sin and reconciliation of man to God, Tyndale invented a word that would encompass both actions. He wanted to overcome the inherent limitations of the word "reconciliation" while incorporating the aspects of "propitiation" and "forgiveness". It is interesting to note that while Tyndale labored to translate the 1526 English Bible, his proposed word comprises two parts, 'at' and 'onement,' which also means reconciliation, but combines it with something more. Although one thinks of the Jewish Fast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the Hebrew word is 'kaper' meaning 'a covering', so one can see that 'reconciliation' doesn't precisely contain all the necessary components of the word atonement. Expiation means "to atone for." Reconciliation comes from Latin roots re, meaning "again"; con, meaning "with"; and ultimately, 'sol', a root meaning "seat". Reconciliation, therefore, literally means "to sit again with." While this meaning may appear sufficient, Tyndale thought that if translated as "reconciliation," there would be a pervasive misunderstanding of the word's deeper significance to not just reconcile, but "to cover," so the word, 'atonement' was invented."
The movie “Atonement” is based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan. The story is a look at the way one childhood lie tragically wrecks several lives.
The Christian Science Monitor in its review said: Set primarily in 1930s and '40s England, it's about the British class caste system and the tragic consequences of a lie. Thirteen-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan) is the precocious younger sister of Cecilia (Keira Knightley), who is powerfully drawn to Robbie (James McAvoy), the caretaker's son. Thanks to her well-to-do family, Robbie has attended Cambridge and plans on a medical career. Bewildered and angered by the obvious mutual attraction between these two, Briony commits an unspeakable action that eventually annihilates all three lives.
BeliefNet continues: This immature mistake is raised to the level of Shakepearean tragedy as Robbie is sent to jail and then to war, separating him from Cecilia. Cecilia breaks all ties with her family -especially Briony - and waits with longing for Robbie to return to her. As the story cuts back and forth through time, different versions of different events are given, and the audience only finds out the true story of what happens to these three characters at the very end of the film. Problems with “Atonement” lie almost entirely in the second half of the film, when it switches to Robbie’s time at war and to Briony’s search as a young woman for forgiveness for her childish actions. There is the symbolism of Briony working in a hospital as a form of penance, and there is a confession of sorts at the end of the film, it becomes obvious that Briony continued to make cowardly choices in her adult life that only added to the suffering of herself and others. She wants reconciliation with her family and craves for mercy to cover her sins, but she doesn’t seem to grasp that the cost of receiving both will take great courage on her part.
The New York Times was singularly unimpressed with the movie saying in its review that “Atonement” is fundamentally about guilt and the attempt to overcome it, and about the tricky, tragically imperfect power of art to compensate for real-life crimes and misdemeanors. In sharp contrast, The Los Angeles Times said that as an assured and deeply moving work, "Atonement" is at once one of the most affecting of contemporary love stories and a potent meditation on the power of fiction to destroy and create, to divide and possibly heal. It is the kind of novel that doesn't get written very often or, if it does, rarely gets transferred to the screen with the kind of intensity and fidelity we find here. For this is one of the few adaptations that gives a splendid novel the film it deserves.
Christianity Today felt that the film raises "important questions about the relationship between honesty and kindness, between truth and grace, between memory and wishful thinking, and it ends on a surprisingly powerful note that asks whether there can ever be true mercy without truth. Can one find redemption in a lie, if it is told with kindness? "Atonement" seems to be about people who cannot let go of the past, and are indeed haunted by the past and their knowledge that it can never be undone. Briony, in particular, is searching for grace and forgiveness, and the fact that she can't quite find it makes Atonement one of the more devastating films in recent memory".
Can there be mercy without truth or redemption in a lie?
Posted December 14, 2007