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'The empire of light': the melancholic I want and I can't by Sam Mendes


The filmmaker reconstructs the relationship between the manager and a young usher at a provincial cinema in England in 1981

It cannot be a coincidence that two of the monarchs of Hollywood, Steven Spielberg and Sam Mendes, supreme representatives of success, both with the capacity to make the movies they want despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, return with intimate films, in which they speak shamelessly of their childhood and adolescence, of remembering their vision of the world and of what cinema meant for them in those periods of life that mark them in perpetuity.

And both

The Fabelmans,

a portrait of the child Spielberg discovering the universe on its front and back, feelings, people and things, through what his camera films, and

The Empire of Light,

in which Mendes reconstructs a cinema in a city on the coast of England at the beginning of the eighties, with several rooms and a beautiful sea in front of it, seem like an inescapable and poetic reckoning with his sentimental memory.

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Nostalgia and popcorn: the cinema is seen in the rearview mirror

As if it were not crystal clear, both directors have declared that the protagonists are inspired by their mothers.

Everything has an intimate aroma, involvement on the part of the authors in what they make you see and hear, a feeling of truth.

And willingness to bid farewell, not burial, to the traditional way of watching movies, something that new technologies are crushing.

Which does not imply that these two films contain excessive art.

There are revelations and beautiful moments in

The Fabelmans

, even if it's far from perfect.

And I find it curious, and intriguing at times

The empire of light,

but by no means exciting.

I imagine that its author sleeps better after having done it, although in my case he doesn't give me true emotions.

It is preferable, yes, to 90% of the titles that flood the depressing billboard.

Mendes must have been 16 or 17 years old at the time he set

The Empire of Light.

And it is clear that magical things happened to him when he went to the movies, a playful and almost lost activity that brought pleasure, or dreams, or refuge, or happiness to people everywhere for a hundred years.

Here he tells us about the heterogeneous public that visited it, but above all about the people who worked in that cinema: projectionists, managers, ticket clerks, ushers, cleaners.

And it focuses mainly on the person in charge of making everything work, a fifty-year-old who goes from unbridled joy to melancholy, cyclothymic, dominated by a fearsome disease called schizophrenia.

She half-heartedly plays the manager's lover, but she's going to have an all-too-troubled love affair, with hell stalking her, with a young, black usher.

It occurs in England imminent to the arrival of Mrs. Thatcher to power,


, those shaven-headed racists who beat up everyone who doesn't look like lifelong English.

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Mendes is supposed to use subtlety when talking about complex relationships, which creates a believable atmosphere.

A lot of things are supposed to happen where nothing ever seems to happen.

But something is missing in the midst of so many legitimate claims.

I can't get into a trance before the dim life of these characters.

Mendes knows that it is essential that they are incarnated by powerful interpreters who humbly accept supporting roles.

Actors as good as Toby Jones and Colin Firth.

And, as always, Olivia Colman is outstanding, that lady who doesn't need to be pretty, or histrionic, or overact to make the characters she's commissioned true.

It is the best of a film that sometimes gives me the feeling of wanting and not being able to.

the empire of light

Directed by:

Sam Mendes.


Olivia Colman, Michael Ward, Colin Firth, Tony Jones, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie. 



United Kingdom, 2022.


115 minutes.

Premiere: March 31.

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Source: elparis

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