Wednesday, 14 September 2011

TIFF Part 2: Two Successful Literary Adaptations. . .

The last two films I saw at TIFF were completely different in style, but both were literary adaptations about how deeply and profoundly love can linger or shake us to our core.  And both were very enjoyable to watch.

My favourite film of the festival so far has been Terence Davies' adaptation of Terence Rattigan's moving play The Deep Blue Sea, starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale. Weisz plays Hester, a woman who has left her husband and comfortable lifestyle after falling in love with a brash, alcoholic pilot whose best days were during the war. They live in a shabby flat and at the beginning of the film, she has just attempted suicide, caught between a lover who no longer is in love with her, and a well-meaning husband who she simply can't love or return to. I was completely absorbed in this film from the start - the performances, particularly by Weisz who is beautifully vulnerable and raw, the gorgeous set design that captures all of the post-war bleakness and especially the amazing score.  Davies always knows how to use music to enhance his storytelling whether it's the soaring, emotional Violin Concerto Op.14  by Samuel Barber that he uses for the dramatic scenes (I had to go out and buy myself a CD right after the movie), or the sentimental songs sung by crowds in a pub or for comfort in a bomb shelter.  I completely teared up when the the couple was dancing to Jo Stafford's rendition of "You Belong to Me".  And what a treat to have Davies there, along with Weisz and Hiddleston, for the Q & A following the screening.  He's such a firecracker - jumping eagerly forward on the stage to answer questions, quoting Shakespeare and generally excited to be there, having shot this on a very small budget. And here's Weisz and Hiddleston (sorry for the blurred photo - I think I was a bit excited too!)

The next night, I saw the Chilean movie Bonsái , directed by Cristián Jiménez and based on Alejandro Zamba's novella of the same name, which I had read a few years ago and admired. It's the story of a young man's first love, intensified by the books the couple reads in bed at night (despite the two having lied to each other early in the relationship about having read Proust). This relationship is retold a decade later in the novel he is writing, while pretending to his new girlfriend that it's the manuscript of a famous writer that he's just typing up. Proustian time and memory was certainly a major theme throughout,  but there was also a wistful lightness to this film that was charming and humourous while also quite sad at times.  It's difficult to capture the internal importance of literature and the act of reading on celluloid, but this movie tried to explore, and generally successed at capturing some of its essence. I recommend both it and the novella.

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