A modern reinterpretation - thanks to the music
maciora | Burbank, CA United States | 10/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Terrific costuming and production design, most noteworthy is the luminous camerawork of Sven Nykvist (Bergman/Allen/Tarkovsky and others). The film is paced as languidly as narrative film making will permit, allowing a certain quality of the author's voice to be felt beneath the demands of "storytelling", one of the chief obstacles in adapting this material.
I think that a masterstroke in this film is the music. While it may seem inconsequential, it draws the film into a more complex direction than typical period music would have done. I believe that this allows the film to reinvent the quality of emotional space in the material.
Contemporary composers of modern chamber music like Hans Werner Henze (who'd collaborated with Schlondorff before) were brought into the making of the film. The music succeeds by injecting an atonal, dissonant, aching, atmosphere into the story. The piano and violin pieces work well against typical form and aid the narrative in a superbly contemplative manner. I was reminded somewhat of "L'Année dernière à Marienbad", simply because the musical "cues" were not spelled out in simple terms.
Avoiding kitsch is part of the problem when adapting an author who discusses subjects (in epic detail) which have been filmed a thousand times before - in my opinion, the music permits yet another interpretation of that subject. At first its quietly unusual, becoming a defined, twisting voice, accenting the growing dissonance Swann experiences with Odette and ultimately with society.
It is a beautiful film. My only concerns were the occasionally odd voice-over work, which was a little distracting. Ornella Muti is a knockout, but her beauty seems oddly contemporary - its as if the filmmakers were trying to make the statement that voluptuousness is eternal, while beauty standards shift periodically and culturally. Irons is excellent as Swann. I would highly recommend the film."
For Proust fans
D. Jenkins | Norfolk, Va. United States | 09/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It seems Marcel spent a great deal of time writing "Remembrance..." and I spent almost as much time reading it-but it was worth it. As difficult as the novel is to read, one doesn't have to get too far into it to realize that the author was a genius with words. I think to have any appreciation for the movie and for Jeremy Irons performance, it's best to have read the book. Otherwise you might find Charles Swann completely insufferable and the movie boring. But for those who have read it, I think you will find Irons performance maddeningly perfect. Ornella was beautiful,and I agree with the reviewer that the movie, at the very least, gives one an idea of the fashion and style that made up the early years in young Marcel's social life."
"I'm not a museum piece"
Vincent Poirier | 05/30/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A reasonable effort by Volker Schlondorff to film the unfilmable. It's valuable mainly for giving a reader of Proust some idea of the costumes, houses, and mannerisms of late 19th-century Paris. Ornella Muti fits Odette's character perfectly, and the dapper Alain Delon gives a face and figure to Baron Charlus. Helpful extended criticism of the film can be found in Roger Shattuck's "Proust's Way: A Field Guide to 'In Search of Lost Time'". He provides some insights into Jeremy Iron's performance that those who don't speak French will find illuminating. I enjoyed the movie before I read the novel although it was a bit confusing, but the confusion impelled me to attempt Proust if only to find out what was going on. I hope it's reissued on DVD soon."
How it could have looked like
Vincent Poirier | Tokyo, Japan | 11/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let's get what's bad out of the way.
There's no point in whining about what Schloendorff got wrong in his adaptation, or what he left out. For instance I didn't much like how the famous last line of "Swann in Love" was rendered ("To think I've wasted the best years of my life..." etc.). But let's face it: you can't take a two-million-plus word novel and turn it into a movie without losing _something_. Just accept it.
My other gripe is that neither of the two lead characters say their own lines. Jeremy Irons (English) and Ornella Muti (Italian) are dubbed by French actors. Most Europeans would have seen a dubbed version anyway given how unpopular subtitles are in Europe. To a non-European, it's silly to have a movie dubbed even in the original language, but I suppose it's part and parcel with the European Union's subsidized financing of culture.
That aside, the adaptation is far from being all bad.
Alain Delon as Charlus is especially good. Despite being dubbed, Jeremy Irons looks spot on as Charles Swann. He's got the right balance of haughty manliness and effeminate aristocratic French charm. Ornella Muti is lovely as the cocotte Odette, except that I was disappointed for personal reasons. I saw Muti in a later film, where she was breathtakingly stunning as housewife to a French lawyer ("Un Couple Epatant"). As beautiful as she was at 28, she was ten times more beautiful twenty years later at 48.
As a period piece, the film shines. Swann's tuxedos, the Guermante's Salon, the stone paved streets, the horse drawn carriages, the lady's dresses.
Much of the dialog is lifted straight out of Proust, almost word for word although the context is sometimes changed. For example, Swann is gathering information on Odette from a prostitute who relates how she has seen Odette with another woman in Nice. In the book, the prostitute's words are actually taken from a letter by a servant taking the testimony of a laundry girl for the narrator of a later book in the series who is investigating his own lover, Albertine, some twenty years later.
Schloendorff's film is a dreamy rendition worth seeing on its own, and if fans of the book lower their expectations, the film is a masterful visualization of Proust's "monde".
Vincent Poirier, Tokyo"