Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Accident

(Donald Brittain, 1983)
Brittain's third feature narrative after a lifetime of documentary shows an astonishingly steady hand. The aftermath of a collapsing hockey arena affords a series of long and painful looks at the workings of personal trauma among local families, and Brittain shows great insight and compassion as he steadily unpacks the varieties of repression and introversion that ensue. As a detailed, disturbingly familiar snapshot of learned emotional failure in middle-class Ontario, this is given great impact by the precise, controlled acting, the expressively simple staging, even the uncommonly apt musical score. And the terrible failures that the trauma precipitates are not without a certain grim humour even as Brittain evokes with aching clarity how deep and culturally ingrained these failures are. So it's doubly depressing that the ending is so neat, so false, so made for TV - not only does every single character come to their senses and resume their role as productive members of society, they all do so simultaneously. It is an unholy copout that turns every searing truth the movie has told into a lie, and as an admission of defeat they wrap things up with an absurd where-are-they-now newscast that literalizes the film's painful retreat from reality.

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