REVIEW: PASSING (2021) Following in the footsteps of the likes of Barbra Streisand


 Sofia Coppola, Greta Gerwig, Olivia Wilde, and Regina King, actress Rebecca Hall went behind the scenes and directed Passing , a film whose screenplay was adapted by Hall from the novel of the same name written by novelist Nella. Larsen . Passing itself is not an ordinary literary work. Published for the first time in New York City, United States of America in 1929 in an era where discriminatory treatment of black people in various aspects of life was still considered a normal order in daily life, Passingreceived wide attention from various circles thanks to Larsen's ability (and courage) to explore a number of conflicts related to race, class, gender, and sexuality. Luckily, Hall is quite straightforward in translating the various themes that Larsen wants to convey in his novel into a presentation of a story that is not only strong but also relevant to the conditions of modern life today.

The title used by the films and novels that inspired him comes from the term passing which is used as a designation for someone who comes from a racial group who has colored skin or multiracial descent who is able to assimilate with a racial group that has white color due to his physical appearance which is seen as a person who comes from a racial group that has white skin color – although, in its development, the term is also used in racial communities of color to refer to people of color who prefer to behave like or socialize with racial communities of color White.

This is exactly what two female characters of multiracial descent, Irene Redfield ( Tessa Thompson ) and Clare Bellew ( Ruth Negga ), are doing when they meet in a predominantly white area of ​​New York City. Irene Redfield uses the “advantage” of having a lighter skin tone to travel to areas dominated by white racial communities to buy necessities for herself and her family. Meanwhile, with a lighter skin tone, Clare Bellew marries a white man, John Bellew ( Alexander Skarsgård).), and now identifies as a member of the white racial community. The two of them were childhood friends who had not seen each other for years. The encounter awakens Clare Bellew's longing for her childhood life among the black race community. Clare Bellew then begins to regularly visit the residence of Irene Redfield and her husband, Brian Redfield ( André Holland ), who live in a New York area dominated by the black racial community and spend a lot of time there.

The discussion about race is indeed the main discussion in Passing's narrative . This theme is then used by Hall to build a series of conflicts that develop between the two main characters – from conflicts about social status and marriage to interactions that form with the people around them. The characters of Irene Redfield and Clare Bellew are described as two characters with multiracial ancestry backgrounds who have determined which racial identity they will use in their daily lives. However, at the same time, Passing also talks about how the two characters actually harbor jealousy over the life choices taken by one another.

The character of Irene Redfield initially underestimated the choice of Clare Bellew's character who got rid of her black racial identity. The interaction between the two then makes Irene Redfield's character begin to imagine (and want) the life of a white race community that is free from the threats and difficulties that always lurk those who come from the racially colored community. This desire to live a life free of threats also builds friction in Brian and Irene Redfield's household. The same thing is felt by Clare Bellew's character who is so amazed by the character of Irene Redfield who can feel comfortable with the identity she has carried since she was born. In some dialogues, Clare Bellew's character even expresses that she is ready to leave her marriage to return to life in the black community she left behind. Hall also forms a hint of the presence of sexual desire between the two main characters through the dialogue and body language they display. The desire for a forbidden desire that is presented subtly but can speak with a strong emotional touch.

Passing is not always able to speak fluently. The complete focus given to Irene Redfield's character often makes Clare Bellew's character feel lost. Many elements of the story from the life of Clare Bellew's character are put aside so it is a little difficult to feel the reason for the emotional turmoil of jealousy felt by Irene Redfield's character towards Clare Bellew's character. The middle of Passing's journey also often feels like it revolves around the same conflict or problem-solving. Hall probably intended this form to exist to emphasize the inner conflict felt by the two characters – particularly Irene Redfield's character. Even so, the empty impression that appears makes Passingslowly loses its binding power. This element also makes the tragic ending choice presented by Hall feels executed too suddenly, in a hurry, and leaves quite a lot of questions about both characters - especially the character of Clare Bellew.

The brilliant performances of Thompson and Negga are clearly another key to the success of this film's storytelling. Compared to Negga's more expressive appearance thanks to the characterization of Clare Bellew's character, Thompson presents Irene Redfield's character as a calmer character. The first half of the film, which often juxtaposes the two characters, makes Thompson's appearance often feel lost. However, Thompson's often stable appearance makes Irene Redfield's character very assertive in many of her emotional moments. Although more expressive, the mystery of the character figure of Clare Bellew has been carefully brought to life by Negga. His character was so cheerful. Even so, Negga is always able to apply an element of mystery in every expression shown by the character he plays.

The appearance of Thompson and Negga also received support from other actors in the film's acting department. Holland and Bill Camp can get along well in every interaction the characters they play with the characters played by Thompson and Negga. Although very short, Skarsgård's appearance, which is described as a white male character who has a distaste for races of color, is able to steal attention. In a scene in the first half involving Thompson, Negga, and Skarsgård, Hall designed the scene in such a way as to highlight the character played by Skarsgård as a character to be feared in every presence.

As a first directing work, Hall is able to show off his intelligence in choosing an aesthetic that is able to highlight the strength of his film's storytelling. The choice to present the film in black and white is clearly a firm choice to depict the world inhabited by the two main characters of the film. With the help of cinematographer Eduard Grau, the choice of black and white colors that fill the presentation of the film also does not seem monotonous. Hall and Grau opt for lighter colors when the film focuses on Clare Bellew's character and, conversely, darker tones appear as the film's storyline shifts to Irene Redfield's character and the life around her. The composition of jazz music that keeps repeating when the storyline is in the life of Irene Redfield's character also strengthens the impression of racial segregation that is indeed running and becomes the background of the story in this film. Hall could have taken the easy way of telling his film drama. The choices he makes show that Hall is a director who is able to go further to express the storyline of his films.

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