Review: Franco’s ‘As I Lay Dying’

Posted on Oct 23 2013 - 7:04am by Alexandria Gryder

Courtesy of Oxford Film Festival | The Daily Mississippian

William Faulkner’s novel, “As I Lay Dying,” follows the story of Addie Bundren’s death and her family’s struggle to fulfill her wish to be buried in the town of Jefferson. It has been said that Faulkner’s novel would be impossible to film; however, Faulkner may have truly appreciated James Franco’s approach to his story.

The book is written from the perspective of 15 different narrators, so a story with such depth must consist of great actors, a great location and a great love for the timeless novel.

This is one of the most intricate films that has been produced this year, and it is a film that will be unforgettable for many. James Franco continuously uses split screens throughout the film so the audience is able to get more than one perspective in every scene. At first, this may be distracting for people, as split screens are not often encountered, but for a cinema minor this is exciting.

It is enjoyable to see two movies at once; the audience knows there are two sides to every story and obviously James Franco knows this as well. The only part of this film that might be too intense is the music; however, the mise en scene is so beautiful that one can overlook the ringing ears.

Franco decided to use a handheld camera for much of the film and this brings the audience into a natural setting – it doesn’t feel fake. If Cash Bundren has to ride, with a broken leg, all the way to the town of Jefferson then Franco is going to make sure the audience feels Cash’s pain every time the wagon travels over a bump. The audience is going to be clenching their teeth the entire ride.

The audience is thrown into Faulkner’s world, which holds the southern grotesque he is so well known for. It is painful, at times, to be so included in this film, and it may seem as though an audience member is somewhere they do not belong as the family’s sufferings are almost too personal to be shared on screen, but Franco is brave enough to not care if his audience has to look away.

James Franco not only directed and co-wrote the film, but he also played Darl Bundren. Though Franco is a beautiful part of the film, Logan Marshall-Green played Jewel Bundren so well that he truly became Jewel Bundren. The character is so intense in the film that it is hard to recognize him as a character and not a real person. Jewel is so complex that only a skilled actor could portray his emotions to adapt on the screen so well. The audience feels Jewel’s strength as he carries his mother’s coffin out of a burning barn, and the audience feels his pain when he wants his mother’s dead body out of the house.

Ahna O’Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack Danny McBride and Brady Permenter are only a few of many actors that made up the film. The actors were cast so superbly that it seems as though the Bundren family was truly on the screen.

The film is brilliant, and James Franco picked a beautiful cast, crew and setting to turn William Faulkner’s classic novel into an unforgettable narrative that so many have been craving to see play out in front of their eyes.