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Take Shelter (2011)

Jeff Nichols

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#41 Nick Olson

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:57 PM

Well, no I don't think it does necessarily change the focus. It is still on the family. I found the ending hopeful in the same ways that Jeffrey and Attica did. There was a very clear restorative sense in the end of the film--for me, at least!

Further, you keep treating the ending as if it was Melancholia's ending. All we see is a coming storm--and the family's reaction. This is quite a different ending than Melancholia's.

Edited by Nicholas, 26 February 2012 - 06:03 PM.


#42 Overstreet

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:04 PM

Ryan, I just didn't experience any of the muddling you're describing.
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#43 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:09 PM

... the hurdle presented by the story's geography. Curtis and his family are in Myrtle Beach during the finale. The shelter is in Ohio. That shelter isn't going to be of any use to 'em.

The details of where they are geographically are not emphasized by the script. You ask most viewers of the film what beach they are at, and I'd suspect 9 out of 10 won't remember. But regardless, I'd maintain that the importance of the ending is not in answering the question of whether or not they'll be able to find shelter precisely in one single storm shelter in Ohio. I think the important question answered by the ending is that the premonitions that Curtis has are actually really predicting what will be future events unless he takes action against them. There is no reason to think, at the end, that he is going to stop having these premonitions or that he and his wife are now going to discard them as only symptoms of mental illness.

Jonah knew from whom his message was coming. He knew that the message was, in fact, a message. He knew what the message meant as far as what he was to do. so much so that he could ignore it. God was not torturing Jonah the way he tortures Curtis here.

And that is exactly the point at which the film leaves Curtis. He now does know without any more doubt that his premonitions are, in fact, a message. And, therefore, that the message originates from some higher source other than himself (or from any deficiencies of his own brain). Definitely less clear cut than God coming down and speaking to him in person, but if you think the "gift" of prophecy wasn't often a little like torture, then go back and read Jeremiah or Hosea.

We can, of course, choose to interpret that ending in different ways, however we see fit. But the point I'm stressing here is that the film, by no means, necessarily demands a muddled or nihilistic conclusion from that ending. Just by their reactions at the end - they aren't lying to their daughter that they are going to build her a magical hut of sticks and then sobbing in despair. There would have been countless ways to show a despair or resignation of Curtis and Samantha at the end, but the film doesn't.

#44 Attica

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:14 PM

Ryan, I just didn't experience any of the muddling you're describing.

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mild spoilers.

That's an interesting thought about Curtis' connection to the storm, and possible contribution to it's fury. I hadn't entertained that possibility..... thanks for that.

In that line of thought, if Curtis (and his very humble wife) were at the end not contibuting to the storm's fury, then maybe in this they were the people (or a couple of them at least) who would not be terribly impacted by it. In other words the "power" that was speaking to him before hand was not only preparing them to escape the storm, but bringing them to the humbleness of character that would allow them to truly not be affected by it.

Edited by Attica, 26 February 2012 - 06:18 PM.


#45 Ryan H.

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:21 PM

Ryan, I just didn't experience any of the muddling you're describing.

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Then you experienced it the way Jeff Nichols intended you to experience it, given his comments about the film in this interview.

Alas, I wish that he hadn't decided to bring in the supernatural into a film when he isn't prepared to give it more definition than he does, particularly since his interests in this material don't seem to lie in that direction. I find it distracting, and it leaves me wanting a film that was either less or more engaged with the supernatural than this halfway route.

The details of where they are geographically are not emphasized by the script.

They are details, nonetheless.

We can, of course, choose to interpret that ending in different ways, however we see fit. But the point I'm stressing here is that the film, by no means, necessarily demands a muddled or nihilistic conclusion from that ending.

The push-back I'm getting is starting to convince me that the ending isn't perhaps supposed to seem as doomed as it initially felt to me. Chalk that up to MELANCHOLIA polluting my experience of this film, or perhaps some subconscious association between the ending of TAKE SHELTER and the harrowing finale of my favorite apocalyptic film, Peter Weir's THE LAST WAVE, which has a lot of surface-level similarity with TAKE SHELTER.

At any rate, I'm still left a bit frustrated by the film's ambiguities.

Edited by Ryan H., 26 February 2012 - 06:38 PM.


#46 Nick Olson

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 07:20 PM

Had anyone read the interview before Ryan posted it?

If not, then, wow, we were all pretty much in step with the director's intentions. Masculinity, fatherhood, the ending, and even Ryan's point about ambiguous disorganized religion...

#47 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 07:31 PM

Just wondering: Why do people assume that any genuine premonitions a man might have must, of necessity, come from a deity of some sort?

Attica wrote:
: Well the film shows that he was given prophetic warnings, that caused him and others some confusion which they eventually rejected, and then found out were true. There is no indication that these prophetic warnings weren't intended to be of benefit from a loving God. Rejecting the warnings was the people's choice, just as it was the people's choice in the Old Testament.

Ah, but if God is part of the picture here, then it was God's choice to give one man those warnings and no one else. So do the people bear ALL the blame for choosing not to heed the man's warnings?

The Bible, at least, gives us an "explanation" in the sense that it says Noah was the only righteous man of his era, or something like that. So either God chose him because he was righteous, or he was receptive to the warning because he was righteous. But would such an "explanation" work for a film like this?

#48 Attica

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 11:53 PM

Peter T Chattaway wrote:

:Just wondering: Why do people assume that any genuine premonitions a man might have must, of necessity, come from a deity of some sort?


I guess because we arguably live in a religious society, we sometimes put these assumptions onto the film (films).




:Ah, but if God is part of the picture here, then it was God's choice to give one man those warnings and no one else. So do the people bear ALL the blame for choosing not to heed the man's warnings?

The Bible, at least, gives us an "explanation" in the sense that it says Noah was the only righteous man of his era, or something like that. So either God chose him because he was righteous, or he was receptive to the warning because he was righteous. But would such an "explanation" work for a film like this?




When I wrote "the peoples choice" I was thinking more in the context of "the People" referring to general people who have received any warnings. So in the case of the film it would be mainly Curtis' with the slight possibility of his wife and others. I was talking in a more general sense of how prophecy works, being that people can, and have (possibly still do - depending on ones understanding of this) rejected these warnings. Thus I was saying that this rejection of the prophecies have little bearning on God's intention in giving them, and not really that all of the townsfolk in the film had any culpability. Maybe I wasn't clear enough in what I was trying to say.

Also as to my quote you had touched on, when I referred to God. In the instance of what I was trying to say about Prophecy I was using the example of a loving God, partially in response to what Ryan had said about Demi-Urge being " Whatever God is at work in TAKE SHELTER is a Demiurge. " I truly didn't read the film that way. I saw the prophecies as ultimately with a helpful intention. Sure - arguably that could be a wrong reading, but my main intention was to communicate this take on the film.

As well later I had mentioned what was happening as coming from "the Power", indicating that it wasn't necessarily coming from the "God" of Christian understanding. So I guess my view on what caused the premonitions flip flops depending on the context of the conversation about the film, and is partially speculative. Hope that makes sense. ;)

Of course the film isn't clear about what's going on there, which fits with what Ryan said about being frustrated with the film's ambiguities. Part of me fully agrees with this, but then there is the other side of me which says that....because of the film's ambiguities we are put in the same place as Curtis in not having a full grasp of what's going on, so then through this we more easily connect and emphasize with Curtis and his story, as we are somewhat in his shoes.

Edited by Attica, 27 February 2012 - 03:03 AM.


#49 John

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 01:17 AM

Wow, great discussion here. Many helpful points that I think are helping me ask better questions about what the film is doing.

The ending of TAKE SHELTER effectively suggests that if there is some kind of power force guiding us, due to its vagueness we cannot really discern whether it is there or just our own madness, and better just buckle-up and wait for the impending, inevitable annihilation to wash over us, an ending that is seemingly without meaning (one article I read rightly called it a Rorschach apocalypse).


Thanks, Ryan. This helpfully articulates my initial reaction to the ending. Reading a number of the film's defenders here, I see more clearly though the family's togetherness in that final moment. Which is nice, as far as it goes. However, that leads me to another question: if all of this was (mostly) about family unity, weren't they in a pretty good place to begin with, pre-visions? What has been gained over the course of the film? Dewart, before he knew anything about the visions, declared that Curtis "had it good" (or something like that). Or is it better because his people stuck by him (and he them) through his troubles?

I'm also still hung up on the geographic question. They were 700 miles away from the shelter at the end of the movie. A detail, I know, but one they put into the film. How does building the shelter change Curtis' actions in that final scene? Or does his building the shelter change the actions of his family? I suspect that whether he built the shelter or not, they would have run, together, to find some kind of safety from the coming storm. Am I wrong about this? Is there something I'm forgetting from the film that suggests they would have reacted differently?

Edited by John, 27 February 2012 - 01:17 AM.


#50 Tyler

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 11:47 PM

For me, the most significant image of the ending
Spoiler


Overall, I'd say I'm in the "loved it, with reservations" camp. Take Shelter does a lot of things better than most films I can think of, particularly Shannon's performance and the immersive quality of the dream scenes, but I still feel like it cheats a bit at the end.

#51 Christian

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:01 PM


Ryan, I just didn't experience any of the muddling you're describing.

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Then you experienced it the way Jeff Nichols intended you to experience it, given his comments about the film in this interview.

Great discussion here. I saw the movie last night. Despite having read the various interpretations of the film offered here, and the linked interview, my response was the same as John's/Ryan's.

The linked interview allows for the possibility of what Jeffrey writes in #7, but doesn't insist on it. I certainly saw it as gloomy, and wondered what the point of the film was. "Hopeful" is about the last word that comes to mind. "Resigned to their doom" is more like it.

But I'm willing to throw up my hands and, as with There Will Be Blood, say, "I don't know for sure what the filmmaker wants me to think about these characters. I can't tell if that's a flaw in the film, but he's made something worth discussing, which is always a plus, even if I'm not going to be on board with the film's ardent fans."

Edited by Christian, 21 March 2012 - 03:03 PM.


#52 Attica

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:18 PM

But I'm willing to throw up my hands and, as with There Will Be Blood, say, "I don't know for sure what the filmmaker wants me to think about these characters. I can't tell if that's a flaw in the film, but he's made something worth discussing, which is always a plus,


I think it's probable that the filmmakers were leaving room for doubts and wrestlings with what the films saying. The ending leaves strong indication that what he was picking up on was prophetic, but, I think it actually still leaves some room for the possibility that he did/does have mental issues, and therefore was picking up on some of what he "saw" partially because of this.

Edited by Attica, 21 March 2012 - 03:22 PM.


#53 vjmorton

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 03:32 PM



But I'm willing to throw up my hands and, as with There Will Be Blood, say, "I don't know for sure what the filmmaker wants me to think about these characters. I can't tell if that's a flaw in the film, but he's made something worth discussing, which is always a plus,


I think it's probable that the filmmakers were leaving room for doubts and wrestlings with what the films saying. The ending leaves strong indication that what he was picking up on was prophetic, but, I think it actually still leaves some room for the possibility that he did/does have mental issues, and therefore was picking up on some of what he "saw" partially because of this.

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#54 Attica

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 04:16 PM




But I'm willing to throw up my hands and, as with There Will Be Blood, say, "I don't know for sure what the filmmaker wants me to think about these characters. I can't tell if that's a flaw in the film, but he's made something worth discussing, which is always a plus,


I think it's probable that the filmmakers were leaving room for doubts and wrestlings with what the films saying. The ending leaves strong indication that what he was picking up on was prophetic, but, I think it actually still leaves some room for the possibility that he did/does have mental issues, and therefore was picking up on some of what he "saw" partially because of this.

Spoiler


Oh.... I didn't mean to say that the end storm was a "vision", but was only throwing out the idea that maybe he was having the earlier visions because he had some sort of mental issues.... that the visions and he mental state were intertwined.


Edit: From my understanding this isn't necessarily out of the bounds of what has happened with "prophetic" people throughout history.

Edited by Attica, 21 March 2012 - 04:26 PM.


#55 Darren H

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 02:44 PM

What a great discussion. I'd convinced myself that Take Shelter was uniformly well-respected, so it was nice, after watching (and disliking) it last night, to find that several others here were also frustrated by the movie. I think a few of you follow me on Twitter, so you may have already seen my response there. I'll post it here, too, for the sake of discussion. I know Andrew Welch also watched it recently, so this might be an opportunity to renew the debate.

I woke up this morning thinking about why I dislike Jeff Nichols' films so much. Here are the top 3 reasons:

1. He shoots work like a tourist, a fatal flaw in a film like Take Shelter, which aspires, admirably, to address economic anxiety. His images, in general, are inefficient and uninspired -- television. Scenes at drilling site look like camera tests or location scouts.

2. Lazy writing. Characters lack depth in part because he ends scenes at the precise moment when they should be brought to life. Chastain comes home to find him digging up yard, gets angry, walks off screen. Cut. They hide in shelter, put on masks, fall asleep! Cut. We see the dog-attack dream, then Shannon's character describes it twice in critical conversations that should do so much more.

3. Implausibility of scenes. Not talking about the fantasy stuff. Shannon's breakdown in church reception hall is laughable. Everyone sits motionless and in silence while he rants and raves. Scene has no consequence because it's a room full of straw men. They're just extras in a movie shoot, an audience for Shannon's performance. The he breaks down, cries, and hugs his wife and child. Cut.

#3 is tied to #2. While watching Nichols' films, I'm too aware of the bland, witless calculations. Things I *should* like -- regionalism, thematic ambition on a small scale, class consciousness -- are just props.

My favorite moment in Take Shelter? When the young deaf actress laughs -- a "holy moment," as Dorsky (via Caveh) would say.



#56 andrew_b_welch

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 03:07 PM

Just posted a capsule review today on my blog. It's not terribly deep but it does pinpoint my primary problem with the movie--Nichols doesn't give us any kind of indication for why his story is important. He spends two hours teasing us with a mystery, and then once we know the truth, it's over. We don't get any sense for what the ending will do to main character's marriage, the community, or anything else. There are absolutely no consequences for any of it, and that, to me, makes the whole story feel arbitrary.

Edited by andrew_b_welch, 06 July 2012 - 03:35 PM.


#57 Christian

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 03:11 PM

Plus, I've seen better Shannon performances in Revolutionary Road, even The Runaways.

#58 Darren H

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 03:37 PM

Andrew, I can't remember the context, but I once made the comment on this forum that I feel it's my job as a critic to accurately explain why I do or do not trust a filmmaker. I still don't know what that means, exactly, but I think there's some truth in it!

I like your summary of the problem--Nichols doesn't give us any kind of indication for why his story is important. What I can't quite decide is whether Nichols doesn't know why it's important or whether he does know but isn't able to express it. When I say I don't trust him to teach me anything, it's because he's failed in one or both of those respects.

I love the idea of a film about working-class America that uses apocalyptic imagery and symptoms of mental illness to explore economic anxiety. (I say that as someone who suffers occasionally from debilitating anxiety attacks, some of them triggered by money issues.) And I love the idea of setting that film in a midwestern home and proposing love and relationships as one bulwark against despair. I identify strongly with Shannon's character -- maybe too strongly to be objective, in fact!

Those are huge ideas, and I think the quality of this discussion proves how eager some people are to engage with them. I just don't find Nichols to be a very useful guide or teacher. Is the end hopeful or despairing? I have no idea, frankly, and it's not because Nichols is probing ambiguities; it's because he's not a very good writer and director.

#59 MatthewBradham

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Posted 05 September 2013 - 11:16 AM

What I was struck by the most in this film was the importance of incarnational behavior in relationships.  When asked about the final scene, Nichols said that it was all about finally being on the same page.  In that moment, Chastain was finally able to see what Shannon saw, not because it was real, but because she had stepped into his world.  And for the first time...he didn't have to fell alone in his nightmare.

 

My take on Take Shelter on Letterboxd.


Edited by MatthewBradham, 13 September 2013 - 08:26 PM.






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