Sunday, March 28, 2004
Possession: To follow up an earlier post (3/22) about Possession (book by A.S. Byatt; movie directed by Neil LaBute), let me say that I grew tired of the novel. This doesn't take away the pure skill involved; this is a literary detective story of sorts in which the literary (chunks of it -- poems, fables, letters, biography, and journals of various individuals past and present) is remarkably created from scratch with literary criticism of such creations tossed in for added measure. All the same, I had two problems: first, after a while, I grew tired of the 19th Century literature material. Second, the current day story lost it's way.
The book was just too long for my tastes ... over six hundred pages ... and I grew tired of it after awhile. Someone who appreciated the lit material (that all the same should be tasted for it truly is well done) more might still be troubled. The last third of the book in particular seemed rushed and the relationship between the two main characters could have been fleshed out more. A condensed version with a bit of tweaking has lots of potential, since there is a lot there to like. As is, I felt the whole not as good as the sum (or perhaps some) of its parts. Upon reflection, it also seems that many of the characters were rather unpleasant for one reason or the other, tragic or otherwise.
As to the movie. I re-watched the movie over the weekend and listened to the DVD commentary (well done -- as readers of this blog might know, I am a big fan of good DVD commentary; btw the commentary to School of Rock was a disappointment). The movie was better than I immediately remembered it to be; it came back to me that I disliked it most in regards to a basic component of the 19th Century love story (loyal to the book). On the whole, the movie is a fairly good translation. The 19th Century story (along with the actors in it) is especially good, but even the modern day parts (condensed for the screen, at times a bit roughly) was also good. I particularly was struck by how looking at the faces of the characters was valuable -- slight things like eye blinking or quick glances.
I would say I still think the Aaron Eckhart came off a bit overbearing as the male professor (made an American here), while Gwyneth Paltrow (whose stay in England makes the penchant for putting her in English roles [including, Sylvia] somewhat more defensible ... to the untrained ear [mine], her accent sounds true) came off better. Still, on the whole, the film was a rewarding experience. The basic turnoff (which I will leave to the viewer) was a somewhat personal belief concerning the characters. The final scene was especially charming.