House of Sand and Fog
Directed by Vadim Perelman
Starring Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Running Time: 126 minutes
This film was easily the most surprising film of the Oscar
season. Even still, the premise to Sand and Fog does not
seem that interesting. However, the film becomes about so
much more than just a simple house. The house essentially
becomes the unreachable salvation for an emotional woman,
a confused cop, and a family struggling to find a footing
in a new country.
This film turned out to be almost a textbook lesson on
character development. It seems that nearly every scene
was successful in both developing the characters and advancing
the story. With such strong characters, their actions, however
rash, make perfect sense. The only drawback to such meticulous
character development is that the film moves much slower
than many, which might turn off some viewers, but that slow
pace is essential in order for the story to work.
What I enjoyed most about the film was the cinematography.
I have heard here and elsewhere that good cinematography
does not draw attention to itself, and that is the case
here. Roger Deakins does an exceptional job of making each
scene clear as can be, with perfect lighting that draws
attention to only the essential elements in the scene. This
is an even more challenging task for Deakins, considering
that much of the film is set among darkness and fog. I consider
this to be his best achievement, and he already carries
quite an impressive resume. I hope he is rewarded for his
work this February.
The acting in this film is also top-notch. Ben Kingsley
delivers what I feel is the strongest male performance this
year. Jennifer Connelly also gives what I feel is the strongest
performance of her career. The real surprise is Shohreh
Aghdashloo as Nadi, who is absolutely brilliant and conveys
the desperation that Mr. Berhani cannot vocalize because
his character will not show such weakness.