A ‘colossal’ heat on a summers day in 1935, a green dress, a private library – this film ticks all the boxes of movie catnip, as far as I’m concerned. I put it in the same category as The English Patient. That would be the Beautiful-People-and-their-Stoical-Posh-Misery category. Oh, it is a dream.
As befitting the fact that we are not really seeing this particular day, but Briony’s memory of this day (rarified and strange) everything is stunningly, unnaturally beautiful. The costume design is out of this world, the Kiera Knightley gets to wear everything amazing. How could James Macavoy resist her? In her white swimsuit and cap she looks like the sort of painting that accompanied 1930s ads that said things like ‘Torquay: The English Riviera’.
She also manages to depict how very oppressive the heat is in this one oufit, which just wilts around her body. Its a dress for lounging around in with nothing to do, ever, and a cocktail in your hand. Somehow, a faded flower-print tea-dress looks utterly sexy on her. Pfft, go away Kiera.
Lastly, as befitting a tryst in a library, she wears a green dress in the evening (for dinner – imagine, putting a dress like this on just for dinner). When I first saw Atonement I thought, oh, that’s nice, I’d like that for my wedding dress one day, in imaginary-land. Rippling green silk = awesome. Then I read this interview with the genius costume designer Jacqueline Durran, who was responsible for this creation:
“We found all the green silk and organza fabrics in London and ended up with three green choices: a lime- green silk, a black and green organza and another green chiffon. Then we took the swatches to a master dyer in London and had him special dye 100 yards of plain white fabric into that rich green. The dress was the composite of those three hues.”.
They also laser-cut the bodice.
All the silk in London? A completely new hue of green invented just for this dress? A laser cut bodice? Yep, that’s do for the big day. Ta.