On ‘Mr Turner’

I am a big fan of Turner’s work. Every time I am in the National Gallery I rush to see his paintings because of the profound impact they have on me. His colours, his storms make me feel like no other, I would say that he is an equal to Ivazovskiy (a huge compliment for a Russian). I wanted to see this movie because I wanted to find out more about the artist, how and why he painted, what drove him, what inspired him. I hoped to see his work again and understand it better. I fear that this movie did not offer me such a privilege.

I do have to say good things about it first. It is visually stunning. A movie about masterpieces has to be a masterpiece itself and Mike Leigh absolutely delivered on that. Some scenes feel like stepping in Turner’s paintings and my God, it is beautiful.

Secondly, acting. Timothy Spall’s acting was superb. The ability to express a vast range of emotions with just growling is very impressive. However, I assume this is not the first review you read, so you already know all that.

My impressions of the movie are rather conflicted. I did not want to see how Turner was living a life of luxury with aristocracy, being admired and celebrated. I did not want to know that he was a part of the establishment to such a great degree. While I do not imagine my favourite artists to be lovely people, seeing him portrayed like, frankly, a bastard was upsetting. Yes, there was drama, the death of his adoring father, obviously failed marriage, him disowning his children but somehow it was not at all obvious how any of it influenced his work. He came across like a commercial artist, with little regard for other people, not a person who lives to paint, has to express some point of view or has an extraordinary life. He watches fellow artists being treated appallingly because they don’t conform with the mainstream and just stands there, it does not appear to upset him. It is a story of his life; his art is just a beautiful background. The movie touched on some potentially interesting parts of his life that could aid the understanding of his work but did not really explore them. It is a good quality relationship drama and if I judged it purely on this basis I would write a better review.

I do not, however, want to put anyone off from seeing this movie. It is beautiful, interesting and thought-provoking. The only reason why I am not jumping with excitement and giving it 5 stars is my personal pre-conceived idea of a man that was somewhat shattered. Perhaps that what makes the movie wonderful, in a painful way. They say, you should never meet your heroes but I say that one should always watch movies about your heroes, however confusing the outcome might be. I will give it 4 stars and recommend as an interesting movie to get on DVD.

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