They say good books make bad movies, so where does that leave the film adaptation of the bestselling CAPTAIN CORELLI’S MANDOLIN, complete with Nicolas Cage, John Hurt and Penélope Cruz? Miles Fielder
he late. great. maverick filmmaker John Huston once said something to the effect that ‘good books make bad movies. bad books make good movies‘. A prime example is Joseph Heller's brilliant World War II satire. Catch 22. Years ago I read this book while commuting to work on public transport: every morning I would start the journey chuckling and end it crying and drooling (yes. stringy loops) with laughter while all the suits around me nervously shufﬂed to the other end of the train carriage. That‘s a testament to the extraordinary impact of Heller’s novel.
Then there's Mike The Graduate Nichols‘ film adaptation of C(ltt'h 22. So much talent involved — Orson Welles. Art Garfunkel. Jon Voight. Martin Sheen. Alan Arkin. Martin Balsam. Buck Henry — and yet such an appalling film. My misery was watching this screen travesty of such a great book. What Huston said about good books/bad movies. seems like that‘s some kind of Catch 22 itself.
So. where does this leave the film adaptation of Captain Care/li's Mandolin? Louis de Berni‘eres‘ novel (which. incidentally. shares with Catch 22 period. World War ll. and setting. a Mediterranean island) is so popular it‘s said to sit. lovingly dog-cared and broken- spined. on one in twenty household bookshelves in Britain. And furthermore. it's been translated into eighteen languages.
Visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh to promote the film at preview screenings this month. director John Madden (who was last in Scotland filming Mrs Brown) said: ‘The important thing about making a movie of a book is to make something that can stand on its own. shoulder to shoulder with the original. It‘s important to honour the themes. world. characters and atmosphere. but it would have been difficult to follow the narrative style the book has. The book is a triangular love story in waiting. but two of the points in the triangle [rival suitors Care/Ii and Mandras] don‘t meet
roughi to book
10 THE LIST 26 Apr—10 May 2001