When the transposition from literature to film doesn't work
Transpositions of books to the screen are always difficult and partial, being the evocative power of the written word so distant from the directness and evidence of the visual image. Still more difficult it is when the book is a collection of thoughts and reflections passed by a father shortly before dying to his son, during some open-air dialogues. Tiziano Terzani has been a highly committed Italian journalist, who worked for 30 years for a German daily, as a correspondent in eastern countries in hot spots of Vietnam under war, and China under Mao, who, after discovering of suffering from cancer, devoted himself to the study and the practice of oriental spirituality, spending some solitary time in the Himalaya, and finally coming back to his home-place to spend his final days, enriched and enlivened by a strong sense of inner peace. In the movie, all his professional life is only taken for granted, and focus is laid on the spiritual and human depth he has reached throughout his life. This may be a choice of adherence to the book, but this is also the weakest and most unconvincing aspect of the picture, because whereas the book affords each reader the necessary individual time, and space to reflect upon each single page and phrase, the movie, which has the need to give as much as possible a comprehensive idea of a human soul, in a reasonable time run, results in a kind of forced "concentration" of reflections, quotations, opinions, ranging from Chinese Marxism to a universal communion between man and nature, with many topics in-between. Interesting and deep topics, indeed, but which sound too much, too methodically in sequence, in order to communicate as much as possible information about the man, but without the necessary time to assimilate them. In the end, the movie, instead of communicating peace of mind and soul, conveys an urgency of passing information. And even if Bruno Ganz proves perfect in his interpretation, some pathos in his pre-packed dialogues with his son is missing, and I found it difficult to empathize with him and his accounts. There are probably books that refuse cinema transpositions simply because demanding time, pauses, reflection, going back and forward, that cinema cannot obviously allow to the viewer. I think that the book "La fine è il mio inizio" belongs to this category: its intrinsic nature would make any transposition, however good and structured, always inadequate, recognizing the written word as its only appropriate means of expression.
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