Art and Sex

 On Chesil Beach
by Ian McEwan

This meditation on the nature of creative energy does a lot with staging and lenses to explore the subject.   The story is anchored between two females (the mother and the wife) who - while both artists - manifest the creative/sexual energies in opposing ways.   The mother is “out there” in her nakedness, madness and connection to more complex layers of reality, the wife is restrained, cold.  

It is the restrained one who achieves the recognition as an artist.   The guy in between - with his uncomplicated sexuality ends up only a consumer (of art).  His promise - he got the highest mark at the university - does not translate into professional success.  Hers - she got the highest mark too - brings her eventually fame and artistic fulfillment.  

Every time  Edward visits his mother the camera and the set design switch gears.  This beautifully shows “the mother’s” sphere, her influence, the potential she brings to Edward.   Which he does not seem to understand.

There is an amazing shot of a piano recital where Florence assists in turning pages.  A long, sensuous camera move along the piano to the male player and then to Florence reveals the interaction between sensuous/sexual and artistic within Florence. 

The “why couldn’t they have sex before marriage” is just a gimmick in this story.  Perhaps there isn’t enough of their pre-marital “negotiations” to make it more believable.   As is, “the beach” revelation feels a bit contrived. 

Still, the film is trying and mostly succeeding in addressing that which usually is trivialized or misunderstood or just unseen.

I just checked out an interview with Ian McEwan on

Two things are intriguing: he reveals that Sam Mendes was supposed to direct it.  Holy Cow!   Now the energy angle becomes more obvious.   It probably would have gone even higher with Mendes.

Also, McEwan says there is a lot of him in Edward.  (not the wedding night though, he says with a smile).  Since Edward is the opposite of McEwan in terms of success and contentment (so it seems watching McEwan talking) this admission reveals a yet another layer of the primal energy manifesting itself in life.

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