Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Love in the Time of Cholera. Feature film. (2007, 139 mins) IMDB
he film uses a book end approach in which we see the three main characters as they exist in old age, raise some questions about where things will go and then goes back in time for the bulk of the movie to show how we got there then resolves the initial setup.
The film is a period piece with lots of costumes and unique buildings and a different way of life. It is also a romance, dramatic romance, structured around a love triangle.
Since the film in set in the late 1800's in South America, the question is why? Why go to all that trouble to tell the story where the production costs increase dramatically? The obvious answer is that what happened in that period has relevance to what how we live today. So does this love triangle has relevance today? In part yes, and in part no.
The film is based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez. If you don't know the name, you should. That his books are difficult to film is a given and the story is simplified for film. Such is the compromise of adapting a novel to fit a 2 hour screenplay, but it's not okay to take a Spanish speaking culture and Anglicize it for a US audience. If you want to make this book, they should be speaking Spanish. It means a smaller audience, supposedly, but even in English, this film will have a small audience. Today's audiences aren't going to avoid a film because it isn't in English. For example, consider THE PASSION or BABEL and many other films where foreign languages are prominent in the film.
We meet a young man working in a telegraph office. He delivers a message to a newcomer to town, a social climbing father and businessman, and he meets his beautiful daughter. It's love at first sight. Since this is different era, he must slowly court and win this woman over. He doesn't just go up to her and ask her out. She's coy but interested. They want to get married, but her father refuses. His daughter won't marry some lowly telegraph boy.
Enter the young, handsome doctor. This is the man her father wants her to marry and she does even though she doesn't love him, even though he's careless, insensitive and a womanizer. She lives out the bulk of her life in this unhappy marriage.
Her lover progresses in his work, joins the family business (river boat steamers) and vows to remain a virgin until he can marry her. The virgin bit goes right out the window when he first experiences sex on a river boat with some mysterious woman. It's a scene that defies realty, but serves the story because while he has sex with almost every woman he has contact with, he still yearns for his first love. That yearning never stops.
For fifty-three years, the two live their separate lives until the doctor dies. The community mourns and our hero is ready to take his bride. The film ends with them in bed on one of the river boats.
So is there anything we can learn from all of this? There is a certain irony in that the lowly telegraph operate becomes a success and the concerns of her father were misguided. But it's impossible to be certain, if had they married, would he still have been successful? Would she still have been miserable?
It's clear the film was not as successful as the production team had hoped. The question is why? I'm not sure. If I had to guess, it's because there's nothing new or exciting about the story line. We've seen this type of dramatic romance before. Just a guess.
Posted 2009/01/27 at 19h35ET in Movie Commentary.