Whether Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, Abnegation, or Candor; the faction in which one should fit in, one assumes is an important, abiding and monuments event in a person’s life, but a little unexciting that in fact, you can defy your chosen faction and choose another; that is unless one is Divergent.
It is only fair to say that Neil Burger’s take on Veronica Roth’s novel, is in fact rather exceptional in many ways. Casting and crew are admiral choices, with a very prodigious Shailene Woodley and notable Theo James, and cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler (Hanna, Marley, R.I.P.D) to drive the film into success.
The opening begins with a scene resembling the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki for The Tree of Life, 2011. The choosing of the factions resembles that of the sorting-hat scene in Harry Potter, and inevitably, it has been compared to The Hunger Games numerous time; but nevertheless, Divergent stands alone as film, all of its greatness and any downfalls are entirely its own. In true-cinematic brilliance, the film skims over any unnecessary storytelling with all scrupulous detail left in. Four’s (Theo James) facial expressions, though ever so subtle, are entirely brilliant. He is able to evoke much of his inner character through the slightest eyebrow raise. His face is able to be both fire and ice in one single glance and Woodley’s effortless plays the dexterous heroine. Kate Winslet unusually plays a villainous role. Casting Winslet was certainly a brave but very well received decision. Playing not a villain in a cliched sense, but one who dominates many characteristic layers; she is intelligent and warm yet her warmth is due to a disturbing personal view of their society. The performances of almost every character, are not to be overlooked in this film. It is hard to pick a character who is exactly as they appear at face value and there are very few actors who do not stand out for their excellence in perforce, both dramatically and physically.
Küchler handle of the camera, takes Divergent from a pictorially strong set of images, to a captivatingly stunning set of images. The play on two-shots in the room of mirrors, the many diagonal shots, high-angle framings and the shots of the elevated train track, are merely a few examples of this films imagery. Another thing to note is the production design in terms of set-decoration and lighting for effect, as seen in the image below.
Chicago in dystopia still shows all the great landmarks; a deserted fairground and the blend of crumbling buildings and contemporary structures, in itself creates great contrast in the films pictorial qualities; not forgetting to mention the contrast between the daily events and that of Beatrice’s (Woodley) mind under surveillance. In many ways, Divergent presents an excellent piece of filmmaking.
“We wanted everything to look as though it was captured in camera, but many of the situations, like running along a train on the El, were impossible. So, we always started with some piece, no matter how small, of photography,” – Jim Berney ( VFX Supervisor)
In keeping with good taste and propriety; the film as a whole is strong. Production design is carefully though and as the story calls for strictness in their way of living, the production crew have not tightened the rules on costume or set. Yes, Abnegation are a selfless and neutral people who wear grey-tones, but costume designer Carlo Poggioli abstained from using matching outfits and dull fabrics; as costume designer Carlo Poggioli, said of the Abnegation costumes that:
“We know the Abnegation are modest, civil servants, so I went with a simple shape for them,” says Poggioli with his hearty Italian accent. “But of course, we had to find something special in the fabric with different shades of gray. The cut is very simple, but features special stitching.”
Poggioli also said, of the Erudite faction costumes, that:
“The fabrics are more technical than others… The cut is very sharp and shaped, especially the outfit on the faction’s leader, Jeanine [Kate Winslet]. The inspiration really came from Neil [Burger], who said, ‘Let’s imagine them wearing a kind of lab coat.’ “
It is not just the impressive cinematography, performances and production design which stand out, the soundtrack is a great addition to everything else in the film. The film score was composed by Junkie XL, with Hans Zimmer as the executive producer of the album. Music supervisor Randall Poster said:
“One of the great creative breakthroughs we had was that we, talking to Neil Burger the director, really looked at Kanye’s Yeezus record and ‘Black Skinhead’ in particular and said, ‘You know what, musically this sounds like the world of Dauntless, obviously, the lyrical topicality was not going to work for us and so doing some exploration we sort of landed on this [French DJ] producer Gesaffelstein who worked with Kanye [West].”
It is of course, not surprising in recent films, to have music which is slightly off-balance to the genre of film. It is something seen more frequently in film, for example that of the music in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 take on The Great Gatsby; it has definitely become an element of sound and music in film which drives the film in ways which other elements cannot.
It is a film which has received both praise and criticism but it is also a film which has been developed upon its own merits having been adapted from the original novel, and therefore, it is one which should be given the chance to be understood and enjoyed without comparison to films of the similar genre. – It is worth sitting down for 160 minutes, even if it is just to enjoy the eye-candy embodiment of Theo James or the captivating performance of Shailene Woodley.