Beloved Screen 83 of 9 reviews

Beloved

1998

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  • Demme's cinema reached its apex with the wild, gorgeous and heart-wrenching "Beloved," which you currently can't buy on Blu-ray. Oprah gives her best performance as Toni Morrison's beleaguered former slave Sethe, who lives with the scars White America stamped on every inch of her body and soul. Her earnestness is awe-inspiring. She's just right.

  • Demme was no dummy: He knew he could never replicate the experience of reading Morrison's prose, so he found a cinematic analogue in overt references to the horror genre, complete with special effects and elaborate atmospheric devices. And why not? Beloved, like most horror movies, is a story about the return of the repressed. I find the film, in its own curious way, as daring as the book.

  • It anchors the lyrical surrealism of Morrison’s novel in a brutal historical reality that only a good movie can provide. Demme’s skill as a filmmaker was to meet his subjects where they were. Few movies are better proof of that than Beloved, which would seem like a complete outlier in his canon but is, in fact, the consummation of everything that makes him worth remembering, studying, and falling in love with as a filmmaker.

  • Where Philadelphia is a morass of compromises, Demme’s adaptation of Toni Morrison’s much-lauded novel Beloved is willfully obdurate, a fierce, at times inexplicable, magical-realist masterpiece... The director’s rhetorical subtext: have we lost the ability to engage with cinema and the other arts as simple spiritual expression? Beloved is that query’s timeless, challenging, and necessary answer.

  • Filled with some of the most extraordinary images of recent years, Jonathan Demme’s Beloved was apparently too powerful for audiences to handle back in 1998. Producer and star Oprah Winfrey delivers a strong-willed and richly complex performance as escaped slave Sethe.

  • Using overwhelmingly potent performances, audacious static close-ups, assertive lighting, and a rigorous yet lyrical interweaving of events set in three different time frames, this terrifyingly beautiful movie blends metaphor and stark social commentary to achieve a spontaneous grace.

  • Beloved's success as an adaptation of the novel is in many ways an impossible and frivolous standard by which to judge; no one involved seems to have approached this material with the idea of animating Morrison's vision without sacrifice or compromise. Within the rubric, though, of maintaining the book's fierce spirit and rigorous attention to a wounded social history, Beloved is admirable in ways that should reward most viewers who are willing and bold enough to test its deep, still waters.

  • Dutiful as it is, Jonathan Demme’s Beloved doesn’t succeed so much as it abides. Nearly three hours in length, this largely faithful adaptation of Toni Morrison’s 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner moves in leisurely fits and—unencumbered by style or narrative complexity—never loses its forward momentum.

  • It’s about punishing us, rubbing our noses in the dirty truth until we have no choice but to validate the suffering of the characters. Of course, that sort of dehumanization cuts two ways, not just brutalizing the audience but making the characters less people than repositories of suffering. Sethe and Paul D. and Denver and Beloved are nothing more than the sum of the violence done to them, the designated martyrs meant to represent those 60 million and more.

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