"If you ride like lightning, you're gonna crash like thunder": 10 questions about The Place Beyond the Pines
1) What exactly is the place beyond the pines? Aside from the fact that the city of Schenectady means "the place beyond the pine plains" in Mohawk, I can only think of two major scenes in the movie where the woods play a prominent role:
a) When Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) rides his motorcycle far into the woods where he meets Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). They later become buddies.
b) When another key character gets lured/forced out to the woods where he risks execution.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne has the woods suggest the wild, immoral landscape that the controlled civilized world of the town keeps at bay. What does writer/director Derek Cianfrance intend here?
2) Why does Avery's son AJ (Emory Cohen) act like he's in Jersey Shore?
3) Derek Cianfrance likes to trail his camera behind Gosling as he walks away, leaving his head and shoulders in the frame. Doesn't Darren Aronofsky like to use a similar shot in The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010)?
4) Why do men keep trying to force Romina (Eva Mendes) to accept wads of cash just outside of the restaurant where she works? (Place tends to rely on repetition of scenes, locations, and camera techniques, perhaps, to unify its otherwise wide-ranging multi-generational plot).
5) What is the exact relationship between Gosling's work in Drive (2011) and The Place Beyond the Pines? In both films, Gosling plays a reticent, charismatic, and talented driver/motorcycle rider who commits crimes (the last of which goes bad). In both films, he also falls for an inaccessible woman who has a man already (and child). In an interview, Gosling points out that "Drive is a very surreal movie, more of a dream, and this [Place] is a film all about ramifications and the consequences of your actions." True enough. Yet, I kept thinking of Drive (one of my favorite films of 2011) while watching Pines. 6) Is Luke a kind of reply to the Driver in the earlier film, a more delinquent/stupider/psychotic version of a character? Does Cianfrance mean to demythologize the former movie? 7) What does The Place Beyond the Pines suggest about fatherhood and the way an absent father creates legacies for future generations to address?
8) Does Cianfrance mean for the viewer to think of that verse from Numbers 14:18: "The LORD [is] long suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing [the guilty], visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation]"?
9) When Place suddenlyshifts to 17 years in the future, and Avery's attending the funeral of his father, are we meant to think of Michael Corleone attending his father's funeral on a sunny day late in The Godfather (1972)?
10) Given Luke's instinctual talent for speed and escape, why does he (of all people) ruin his life in an attempt to stay in one place and raise his son?