Brimstone – Dir Martin Koolhoven

Martin is apparently a big fan of Stanley Kubrick, John Carpenter and Billy Wilder.  This makes a lot of sense to me now after seeing the film, which is Martin’s first American film.

Set in early 1800’s gold rush country, maybe Oregon or Northern California, it’s a story of a girl who is desperately trying to escape the wrath of a religious madman, a Dutch immigrant.

Not sure if what I watched is a realistic depiction of life for women during this time, but if it is, I have no desire to go back in time to these simpler times. America was not great during this formative time in history.

In a time where women have no rights, the advantages that men have to abuse seem to be endless. This four part story, that is purposely told out of order, is not an easy one to stomach. I saw two people leave the screening and heard many people gasp and gag in the more grotesque scenes.

Technically I think it is a well crafted film. The performances are outstanding, particularly from Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce and Emillia Jones who played young Joanna. The cinematography is masterful and the musical score is hauntingly beautiful.  People will argue that it went to far with the blood and guts and others will argue that it was necessary to convey the horror. I will say that we were all on the edge of our seats and almost felt as abused as Joanna throughout so perhaps it was flawless in that regard. What was particularly horrific to me is that this did seem very real, that this might have happened 150-200 years ago to many women who did not “love and obey”.

If you have a strong stomach and are interested in the American Gothic genre, this is the film for you. If you are interested in this time in history but don’t like to be confronted with disturbing scenes and relentless gore, a book might suit you better.

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