Tuesday 5 July 2016

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 4. Rapture

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to escape from the monotony of everyday life, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

Director - John Guillermin
Country - USA/France
Year - 1965
Runtime - 104 Minutes

John Guillermin's Rapture is a hauntingly beautiful coming of age tale about a delicate and troubled teenager, Agnes, who is on the verge of blossoming into a young woman. Cared for by her unsympathetic father, Frederick, who has been deeply affected by the loss of his wife and Agnes' mother, she lives a lonely and sheltered life on their isolated homestead with only her doll and the housemaid, Karen, for company. Their world is thrown into disarray when a wounded convict, Joseph, seeks refuge after a daring escape from the local gendarmes, and his arrival stirs up new feelings for Agnes as her curiosity develops into an unhealthy infatuation.

Patricia Gozzi was only 15 when she portrayed Agnes, and the depth of her character is astounding for such a young actress. Each moment of torment and heartbreak is delivered with genuine emotion in a powerful performance that showcases a talent who is mature beyond her years. This beguiling display of Agnes' innermost feelings is matched by Guillermin's deft command of the camera; jarring cuts and unnatural yet enchanting camera angles emphasise her distress and confusion, with the ever-looming threat of being incarcerated in a nearby mental institution plaguing Agnes' fragile mind.

Joseph's gentle nature has a calming effect on Agnes, and Dean Stockwell - who you might remember from his role in another simple, yet exquisite piece of storytelling as Walt Henderson in Paris, Texas - inhabits the role of a loveable rogue with ease, acting as the perfect counterpoint for Agnes' unpredictable yet endearing persona. On the emergence of a curious love triangle between Joseph, Agnes and Karen, tensions rise and the taciturn nature of Frederick is pushed to the limit as he fears for his daughter's safety, whilst being confronted by Agnes' ever growing resemblance to her late mother.

Set amidst the backdrop of rocky cliff faces and the great expanse of the Atlantic ocean, Rapture makes use of the stunning Brittany coastal scenery with shots that encapsulate the beauty of nature whilst simultaneously providing the audience with valuable insights into its fascinating characters. As Agnes retreats to the solace of her childhood den amongst the rocks, gazes wistfully up at a flock of circling seagulls or frolics playfully along the beach with Joseph we see her childlike nature running free from the restraint of her strict father in some of Rapture's most memorable sequences.

When Rapture reaches its heart stopping conclusion, you are likely to be completely enthralled by the wonderful world John Guillermin has created, even if it visits some dark places along the way. Its French title, The Flower of Age, may be accurate in describing the growth that Agnes experiences as she traverses this tumultuous path to adulthood, whilst the religious connotations of its English title hint at Joseph being her saviour, and symbolism seen throughout lends itself to this spiritual interpretation.

This is rich and meaningful storytelling that deserves a wider audience, and I hope I have given you the inclination to watch this essential, and unfairly overlooked, classic. Although the film has been uploaded to Youtube, I implore anyone who watches it this way to invest in the Blu-Ray release by Eureka! Classics like I have done. Not only for the excellent extra features but also to support a fantastic company who put the time and effort into restoring forgotten classics.

If you take the time to watch Rapture then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your glowing review of my late husband's favorite film. John felt very strongly that Rapture was the only film that showed what he was capable of as an artist. He was deeply touched when Twilight Time responded to his drawing Rapture to their attention (at my urging). I am researching these reviews for the first ever book on a selction of my husband's 38 films which will be published in late 2020 by Precocity Press. Written by myself with contributions from other film writers and academics, it is called: John Guillermin: the Man, the Myth, the Movies. I only wish he had known of all the reviews now listed on iMDB.com. The praise for Rapture in the reveiws we did see brightened the last few years of his life.