HEAD IN THE CLOUDS is a sweeping romantic drama set in 1930\'s England, Paris, and Spain. Gilda Bessé shares her Paris apartment with an Irish schoolteacher, Guy Malyon, and Mia, a refugee from Spain. As the world drifts toward war, Gilda defiantly pursues her hedonistic lifestyle and her burgeoning career as a photographer. But Guy and Mia feel impelled to join the fight against fascism, and the three friends are separated - seemingly forever.
In 1987 writer/director John Duigan made one of Australia?s most beautiful and best-loved films, The Year My Voice Broke, a haunting coming-of-age drama starring Noah Taylor (Almost Famous) and Loene Carmen (Tom White). Since then Duigan has split his time between making local and international features. His latest is Head In The Clouds, a WWII drama starring two of the biggest actresses in the world, Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz.
Charlize Theron plays Gilda, a free spirit spawned from a well-to-do European family and the decadence of post-WWI 1920s. On visiting London in 1933 she falls for university student Guy, played by Theron\'s real-life partner Stuart Townsend (The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen). They meet up again in Paris a few years later and embark on a passionate affair, which also includes Mia (Cruz), a Spanish political refugee Gilda has befriended. While both Guy and Mia\'s political sensibilities are becoming more \'activated\' by the day, as the Spanish Civil War rages and fascism rises throughout Europe, Gilda remains neutral and hedonistic as ever. Eventually their idyll is torn apart by differing values and the war that arrives with a vengeance.
Head In The Clouds is a lushly made period piece spanning just over a decade - the time just before WWII broke out to its bitter end, when the allies finally liberated Paris in 1945. While initially self-conscious, Theron eventually settles into her glamorous, bohemian character, although at times she is seriously up-staged by Townsend and Cruz who own a much more interesting chunk of the film - the Spanish Civil War sequences. It is there they really shine as actors, whereas we have to wait for Theron\'s moment, more towards the war-torn conclusion.
While you can\'t fault this film on a technical level, you can on a dramatic and emotional one. The political and social backdrop here is so rich and complex, but the dialogue and characters are not. They seem confined to an over-simplified storyline, at odds with Duigan\'s more heady motives for making the film. But that said, Head In The Clouds isn\'t a bad film, perhaps it is a tad more ordinary than it should have been. It will certainly be of interest to anyone currently enjoying the resurgence in films and television programs about WWII around at the moment.