Sunday, February 24, 2019
Movie Reviews

Posted at: Feb 2, 2018, 5:30 PM; last updated: Feb 2, 2018, 11:18 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW: PHANTOM THREAD

The ghost lies in details


Film: Phantom Thread

  • Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville
The ghost lies in details
A poster of Phantom Thread

Nonika Singh

Phantom Thread… as unusual is the title of the film, equally out-of-the-box and deeply unsettling is its storyline and theme. Set in 1950s in London, the backdrop of fashion and glamour lends its own charm to the period setting. Exacting in detail, its meticulous precision finds a match in its protagonist Reynolds Woodcock’s craft of designing haute couture. 

Heading a renowned fashion house, Woodcock, in a way, is an island unto himself except for the reassuring presence of his sister Cyril Woodcock (Lesley Manville), who helps him run the show. Who better than three time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis to play the part of a man preoccupied with his obsessive love for his work. At one level he is haunted by his past which impels him into stitching his memories into the linings of the clothes he designs.

There is an allegorical meaning to all he does and says, “Dead watching over living is very comforting. I don’t find it spooky at all.” Indeed, there is little in the film that is ghostly or even ghastly. Yet, a certain foreboding of gloom hangs heavy even when he meets his love, a waitress, Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps). Though she turns into his new found muse, she is both an intrusion and distraction in his creativity-driven life. Expectedly sparks fly and flare into a conflagration… and she decides to take control of her and his life too. What follows is an interesting twist, a psychological reflection of humans, minds, marriage and relationships. In the folds of human frailties and insecurities, somewhere, lies the desire to be loved and nurtured, as also to call the shots. Make and break and make again. Like the beautiful clothes he sews for the rich and famous there is a tear here, a fracture there to be taken care of.  Alongside human drama, unfolds the world of fashion, of models sashaying for crème de la crème of society, yes even in that era. There is a magic in those moments and friction too. The most delectable is the part in which Reynolds scoffs on the word chic when he loses an important client. 

The film does move at a languid pace, almost standing still at certain junctures. Yet there is palpable tension and suitable drama. The jagged edges of fractured ties can be heard in the noise Alma makes while buttering her toast or cutting a piece of bread. Gestures and smiles convey a lot in the film where dialogues too are exceptionally well written. “There is an air of death in this house”, “Are you here to ruin my evening and possibly my life…” to sample a few. Performances are top notch, each actor carrying his or her part like second skin. Not surprising the film is nominated for Academy Awards in six categories with Lewis for the best actor and Lesley Manville for the best supporting actor. 

Watch out not just for their superb acts but also to know the stuff love and perfection are made of. From the rustle of the dresses to the immaculate fall of the gown to the needle piercing into the cloth…every minute detail is taken care of in this multilayered narrative that lends many meanings to love, control and submission. In the film Manville might say, “Let me be unambiguous,” Phantom Thread weaves as many threads of ambiguity which you will truly enjoy unraveling.


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