Atonement Film Analysis Essay

The meaningful changes the characters in Atonement go through are what make the film successful in engaging the audience as it helps the audience to relate to the characters, their experiences and their motives throughout the film. The director, Joe Wright, uses a variety of motifs and symbols to support this idea and to help the audience understand the significance of scenes such as the fountain scene, from the perspective of Robbie and Cecilia; Briony’s meeting with the French soldier; and the interview scene, when Briony reveals her wrongdoings and how she attempts to atone for her mistakes.

Throughout every film, characters go through meaningful changes and their stories develop in terms of their environment. Characters must go through change to show how the film itself develops. In Atonement, Robbie and Cecilia go through many changes, the most meaningful ones developing as a result of their environment. They had known each other for a long time, yet neither of them had acknowledged their feelings for the other. However, as we see the fountain scene for the second time, from the perspective of Robbie and Cecilia, they are finally able to admit to themselves they have feelings for the other.

Through symbolism, the director helps the audience understand the change Robbie and Cecilia go through and how it is meaningful in terms of character development and the development of the film. Wright uses the symbol of the broken vase in this scene to emphasise the strong feelings Robbie and Cecilia have for each other. While a small amount of3 tension breaks the vase, it is still the most valuable thing Cecilia’s family owns. Robbie and Cecilia’s love is difficult and trialling, yet they still hold onto it and endure because, to them, it is the most valuable thing they can possess.

After the vase breaks apart from the tension, Robbie and Cecilia show their dedication to keeping it, and therefore their love, together. This is shown when Cecilia dives into the fountain without hesitation to retrieve a piece and a close up shot shows Robbie’s hand holding tightly onto the handle. The film then develops around this change in the relationship between Robbie and Cecilia and the trials they go through to keep their love intact. The fountain scene leads to the audience engaging more with the characters and their storyline.

This enables the director to highlight the fact that in order to be engaging, a film needs to have characters that go through meaningful changes so that the audience is able to relate to their experiences. This implies that people go through many meaningful changes throughout their lives and that a character going through change will be able to influence the audience more than a character that stays the same the entire film. In order to be successful, a film should have an engaging storyline which allows the audience to truly relate to what the characters are experiencing.

The audience will therefore be able to understand these experiences and why the characters go through meaningful changes. Briony grew up in an upper class, conservative family, which led to her misunderstanding of the relationship between Robbie and Cecilia. Briony’s storyline, from the somewhat innocent accusation to the realisation of her mistake and her attempt to achieve atonement, engages the audience by using the motif of storytelling during her meeting with the French soldier. This motif helps us to understand how Briony changes as she, “Grew up,” and why she decides to write a happy ending for Robbie and Cecilia.

After being taught that, “There is no Briony,” Briony is left with no sense of identity and she meets with the wounded French soldier with the idea that she only identifies with a destructive past. However, as she discovers the delusional mind set of the soldier, Briony plays along with his story and pretends that she is part of it in order to comfort him in his last moments before death. Through this act of kindness Briony discovers she can use the power of storytelling to change who she is and how her words affect the lives of others around her. Through storytelling she can finally restore instead of destroy.

The change from a destructive identity to a restoring one allows the audience to engage with the storyline and understand Briony’s experiences as an ignorant child and why she felt as though she had to change herself. People often feel compelled to make changes in their lives in order to correct a mistake or to improve their lifestyle and the director uses this scene to help us understand the reasons behind why people make these changes in their lives. By showing these changes, we can relate to and engage with the characters more, therefore causing the film to be more successful.

However, the success of a film doesn’t depend solely on the development of one particular character. In Atonement, the film draws success from the depth to which it shows how the characters’ changes affect the entire film and how the audience can learn from these changes. Briony’s decisions greatly affected the lives of Robbie and Cecilia after her false accusation of Robbie raping Lola sent him to the war. While the change she went through during her time at the hospital doesn’t directly impact their lives after this point, it shows us how change can lead to accepting our mistakes and forgiving ourselves and others.

During the interview with present day Briony, she reveals to us that the ending to her book, in which Robbie and Cecilia are happily married and live in the Seaside Cottage, is fiction. Wright uses the symbol of the Seaside Cottage in the fiction ending to represent Robbie and Cecilia’s love and how they weren’t able to have their dream together. However, it also represents Briony wanting to give them a happy ending, despite all the trouble she has caused them in the past.

The change Briony went through during her night with the French soldier in the hospital led to her being able to accept her mistake and the consequences that came with it, therefore leading to her using the power of storytelling to write a happy ending for Robbie and Cecilia by the Seaside Cottage. Writing their happy ending was Briony’s way of apologising and seeking forgiveness. Briony’s change in character ultimately resulted in her achieving atonement and the audience can learn from this that every choice has a consequence, and in order to change the outcome we have to go through meaningful changes.

The director uses the fact that Briony’s actions and character changes had an impact on Robbie and Cecilia’s storyline to teach us that everything we do has an impact on others, and if the impact is negative we need to change the way we choose to act. Overall, the characters’ meaningful changes in the film Atonement are what cause the audience to be engaged, making the film successful. Through the use of symbols and motifs, the director is able to show us the significance of certain scenes and how they contribute to the success of the film.