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DFI Film Review: Take Shelter

May 07, 2012

Written by Reem Saleh, Digital, DFI

Film: Take Shelter
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham
Running time: 120 mins

Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a loving family man working hard to provide a decent life for his wife and deaf child. When he starts to experience vivid dreams and apocalyptic hallucinations, he worries that he may be suffering from a mental illness.

Looking for rational and concrete answers, Curtis takes refuge in science: psychoanalytic books, research and ultimately therapy. He unexpectedly visits his mother to ask about her diagnosis with schizophrenia, which he may be suffering from. His brain is grasping at a medical reality, but the urge to protect his loved ones grows in him like a disease. He must make sure his family can stand strong against the most ferocious of storms.

Torn between scientific reality and an interpretation of these visions he can’t ignore, Curtis finds himself building an expensive shelter in order to protect his family from an apocalyptic storm. His behavior threatens to alienate him from those he loves the most.

The prelude of the film is a succession of surreal events as perceived by Curtis himself: brown-colored rain, constant storms and weird-acting animals. Our perception of reality, like Curtis’, is suddenly shattered when we realize that no one else can see what he sees. Now the signs are crawling to his bed in the form of nightmares, leaving him restless, confused and completely unfocused.

The sky becomes a lead character, with a symbolic cinematography which is clearly of metaphorical significance. The repetitions, beautifully shot, with different nuances each time are aesthetic and disturbing; interpreting what goes in Curtis’ psyche. All he understands from this experience is that he needs to protect his family. These codes, only seen by him, prove once more a la Tarkovsky how nature can become an integral character in understanding what goes beyond what we see, beyond the dialogue.

The film triggers interesting points on the meaning of family, the responsibilities laid upon each member and the struggles between the instinct of protection and the pressure to face the greatest dangers of apocalyptic scales.

‘Take Shelter’ is the second feature for Jeff Nichols, a masterpiece of visual poetry and a reflection on life through dreams and symbols. He has created a mood crafted like a rare piece of music, with a crescendo to a unique experience of a hallucination-thriller with philosophical dimensions. Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, The Help) implement his vision with a pair of outstanding performances.

The film will be playing in Doha starting Tuesday the 8th of May, and if you’re looking for an insightful experience make sure to book your tickets now. For more information click here.

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