David Gordon Green, the somber and introspective director of acclaimed independent films like George Washington and All the Real Girls, will appear at the Harvard Film Archive on March 9 and 10 to promote and discuss his new film, Snow Angels. This is the fourth feature film from the 32-year-old writer/director and judging by its big-name cast, which includes Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, it appears to be his most accessible work to date.
However, despite Snow Angels’ ostensible mainstream appeal, it hardly deviates from the coming-of-age genre that Green has devoted his craft to since 2000’s George Washington. Like that film and All the Real Girls, both of which will also be screened at the HFA, Snow Angels investigates the gray area between childhood and adulthood, but its premise doesn’t limit itself solely to the confines of adolescence.
In most of Green’s films, particularly the southern-based Real Girls, adults are impaired by their own self-destructive immaturity. They are forced to break apart their lives in order to grow into kinder and more tolerable human beings. Unlike directors such as Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and Todd Fields (Little Children) who structure their characters based on personality flaws too terrible to overcome, Green instills his actors with an enormous range of empathy. He successfully interweaves issues of sex, loss and love into each characters’ independently-defined personalities with meticulous and unfettered attention to detail.
Green doesn’t always hone a believable sense of dimensionality within all of his actors-Real Girl’s star Zooey Deschanel comes across as flat and undeveloped-but when Green gets it right, he is able to break free of genre-inflicted clicheacute;s and instill a sense of purity within his characters that make his films effortlessly naturalistic.
Comparisons between Green and Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven, The New World) are unavoidable. Both directors observe human relationships in austere settings, investigating atmosphere and slowly developing the poetic scope of nature. But while Malick makes films with an epic concept in mind, Green is more interested in simple humanity. It is for this reason that audience members and film buffs alike have grown to love the director’s vision and why Snow Angels is so eagerly anticipated by the film community.
If his newest film is able to deepen the themes so beautifully evoked in his previous projects, Green will prove himself an auteur in his own right and undoubtedly remedy Hollywood blandness with his striking visual palette and profound understanding of ordinary day-to-day existence.