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I’m about 20 min in and that scene with Skarsgaard going full racist opposite Negga and Thompson was absurd. I think the movie or at least the 20 min I saw would have been much better served if Skarsgaard knew Negga was black or biracial but they decided as a couple to cover it up to make their lives easier. I just don’t believe for a second that a husband wouldn’t know for some fairly obvious reasons. Like maybe she passes in a lot of non confrontational settings and maybe his family doesn’t look too hard but for Skarsgaard himself to notice it was a bridge too far.
Why is it absurd? It’s willfull blindness based on his clearly articulated racism. So in other words, you’d have the idea of “passing” completely eliminated from the film about…Passing (the reason the film exists)? They “decided to cover it up” in an era where it was largely illegal?
No. I wouldn’t have Skarsgaard “fooled” and would have him in on Negga passing. Granted I’m 20 min in(which I plainly stated) maybe that is a reveal later in the film but I thought the scene where he meets Tessa the first time was absurdist and didn’t work at all.
The book is very clear on this. She’s passing, and he has no idea at all.
You find it absurd that a white man in the twenties would be casually racist and oblivious that his wife was black?
I mean, there are photos of black people who passed for white. They don’t look much different than Negga.
He is overtly and intensely racist in that scene and yes I find it implausible that the character I watched in that scene would have no idea his wife was black. Of course I believe dudes were and still are super racist like that but I don’t think those same guys would marry someone like Neggas character and not have some inkling. The scene rang false and felt like something that would work better as a play where folks suspend a certain disbelief. That scene didn’t work for me at all outside of like a perversely bad SNL sketch.
You find it implausible based on your life experience and based on your modern understanding of race. But there is photograph evidence to the contrary. You’re just objectively wrong here.
This is a nonsense answer. I am not objectively wrong because it is a piece of art and just because you think it works doesn’t mean I think it works. For the record, my wife is literally someone who “passes” at times so I absolutely understand what the concept means.
The conversation with Skarsgaard doesn’t work because Negga doesn’t pass. Maybe a better written scene would work where Skarsgaard wasn’t an over the top comically racist piece of shit or a version of the story where Skarsgaard secretly knew and was in on the ruse but the version I watched did not. It wasn’t even particularly close if I’m being honest. Hell as noted below maybe the scene works as scripted if someone like Hall played the part herself but it doesn’t work with Negga in NYC.
You think she doesn’t pass. There is documented historical evidence that people who looked similar to Negga passing for white. How many people have you known who passed? I have an entire wing of my family who passed. This is the point. In the 20’s, things were not as they are now.
I don’t think she “passes” in that scene and with Skarsgaard. I don’t really care about your experience because I watched a scripted piece of art and didn’t buy it for a second. Also and I say this as someone who has agreed with you more often than not when it comes to race at HE, it’s obnoxious to continually just play the moral superiority card here at HE every time race comes up.
We are literally talking about a piece of art that I’m saying doesn’t work for me and I have my own experiences with my literal wife as well as many others over the years with friends and that scene didn’t pass muster and was actually bad. You are allowed to disagree with my take on art but you can’t just mitigate my experiences and observations and to be blunt my cinematic and storytelling taste just because this story affected you. I thought it was bad and doesn’t work. I don’t buy Negga and I especially don’t buy her in a relationship with the Skarsgaard character. Whatever historical evidence you are speaking of is relatively useless here because we are seeing an artistic depiction of the scene not an actual documentary. The scene doesn’t work and maybe it’s because of the writing, maybe the Negga casting and maybe the Hall direction but it flat out does not work for me.
Oh come on, don’t fall back on arguments from emotion and all the ad hominems with all the moral superiority stuff. Don’t change the subject because you KNOW I can hit you with a deluge of photographic proof. I brought up life experience and historical evidence to answer this notion that Negga doesn’t look white enough to play this role, period. If it isn’t her looks, what else is implausible? Her mannerisms? Her speech?
From your original comment I got the impression you couldn’t get past her appearance, and if that is the case, there rock solid evidence that someone who looks like (key word is appearance) can pass, and maybe you can rewatch the scene with fresh eyes.
I’m speaking from this perspective because you exhaustingly parade your personal knowledge of everything black here as if it’s some kind of trump card. You do it often and most times it works but not here.
I don’t believe the Skarsgaard character in that scene would not notice Negga’s features or mannerisms. Someone a little dimmer perhaps or rube-ish but not the character I watched run through that scene. Negga doesn’t work in the role in that scene. It felt like a white face impression of Daisy Buchanan. Obviously people “pass” all the time but I don’t think the Negga character would “pass” with Skarsgaard in that circumstance. A different actress could have played the part and the scene may have worked or a different version of the script may have work or different direction of the performances but it didn’t work as presented.
Yeah this isn’t selling me. At all.
You need to finish the film. This is a silly thing to get hung up on.
“ I’m speaking from this perspective because you exhaustingly parade your personal knowledge of everything black here as if it’s some kind of trump card. You do it often and most times it works but not here.”
You’re penalizing me for “knowing shit”. And I never, NEVER, rely solely on personal knowledge. I try to use fact based arguments. I’m fact, I’ll never mention it again to spare myself the whining. The HE comment section is so sensitive and very quick to resort to personal attacks as if it has any bearing on an argument.
Is this a black woman? She passed for white. And she was Johnny Cash’s first wife. And she was black.
You make it personal when you mention your race as a Trump card in almost any discussion that touches on race. You use as way to “win” any argument and imply that you just understand things better. When it comes to politics, this works fine but when it comes to art not so much.
This picture looks like a light skinned black woman or a person of mixed ancestry. I’m not sure what point you are proving here.
You also keep missing my point which is that the scripted scene itself and the character Skarsgaard plays do Negga no favors. Perhaps there are versions of Negga “passing” but this one was poorly executed and ridiculous. It felt exactly like a play where the audience knows to suspend disbelief.
I always find it funny that bringing up personal experience is perceived as attempting to shut down an argument. I’m just presenting evidence from a variety of perspectives. You’re free to counter any point that I make.
That picture of a light skinned black women is Johnny Cash’s first wife, who passed for white her entire life.
Agree to disagree on the acting in the scene.
The irony is that Rebecca Hall, who is mixed race, should have cast herself in the Negga role. She looks whiter than both Negga and Tessa Thompson.
I literally had no idea Hall was mixed race until this moment so I’d agree. I have a few acquaintances over the years that were of mixed race and I never knew until they told me or someone mentioned it.
Ruth Negga, on the other hand, does not work in this sort of a role because of her features. I’m not even trying to be shitty, it just didn’t work for me. Even someone like Rashida Jones would have worked 10 years ago.
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The ignorance of saying Negga could never pass as white is absurd. Black folks all around the country are laughing and shaking their heads. We can point to actual people who passed for white and they didn’t look much different than Negga. Especially when any brownness could be justified as general swarthiness, middle eastern or Native American “blood”. There are Sicilians darker than Negga.
Nope — you’re not only blowing smoke up our asses but your own as well. Megan Markle, Gugu Mbatha-Raw or, as I said above, an actress who resembles the young Marilyn McCoo, Lonette McKee or Lena Horne…any of these would have been fine.
How could Mbatha-Raw pass as white? And the British tabloids and royal family made it clear Markle couldn’t.
Wait, you’re saying Gugu Mbatha-Raw looks whiter than Ruth Negga? On what planet?
Is this supposed to prove something?
She looks fairly white-ish. She could certainly pass a helluva lot easier than Ruth Negga could.
Sorry, you lost here. This two pics supposed to prove something?
Or, you could just write one sentence that Negga’s casting didn’t work for you, which is fine, but it’s as minor a point as quibbling whether or not Hoffman could have fooled anyone he was a woman in Tootsie. We’re supposed to be aware that she’s a black woman, and the people in the movie don’t. We’re not supposed to be gawking at her trying to decide if we could have been fooled, but looking out from her point of view navigating white society. Hall could have cast a fully white looking actress with “one drop”, but that’s not what the story is about.
“Hall could have cast a fully white looking actress with “one drop”, but that’s not what the story is about.”
No, she couldn’t.
I have heard (though I don’t have a source for this) that Hall’s casting decision was a somewhat expressionistic one, in that it wasn’t meant to be “plausible” but was meant to convey how self-conscious people can be about their colour when they “pass” for another colour.
And it’s not just Negga’s casting that is an issue here. Thompson, also, “passes” for white in the film’s very first scene — though only among strangers, not within her own home.
One of things I loved about the film was the juxtaposition of race and class. Tessa Thompson’s character Rennie and her wife are clearly wealthier than Clare and her husband (Harlem had the highest rent of any borough in NYC in the 20’s). Clare realizes that Rennie got everything she wanted without having to hide her identity. Rennie sees Clare as “free” because she is able to move in white society and Clare sees Rennie as “free” because she is not only financially well off, but is able to live as herself.
They should have cast Meghan Markle as the lead.
Markle would have worked, come to think.
But she can’t act.
She can act aggrieved pretty well.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but having read the novel many years ago, one of the points Nella Larsen makes in the text is that white people of the 1920s didn’t have a good eye for phenotypes, and that Claire is full of contempt at their stupidity.
Watched a little of the film, but my midnight oil is running low and I’ll have to commit a cinema sin of pausing in mid-stream. Anyhow, my first reaction is a sad lament for the loss of classical b&w in a 1920s pastiche. Where’s shadows, dutch angles, full body shots, entrances into the frame, establishing shots, etc. And if Hall was going to shoot it mostly in closeup, where’s textures, pores, stark contrast…
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