Andre Antoine filmed his silent version of Daudet's work with the sense of awe at the beauty of the city of Arles and the countryside surrounding it that you would expect if you have already seen his LA TERRE. He also slides us into the story in an ingenious manner: here is the a picture of Daudet who wrote it, and here is the mill in Arles that he lived in where he wrote it, and here is Arles, and the river that runs through it and the farms near it and the person who lives on a farm, played by the actress.... and we are in the story.
It is the telling of that story, though, I have issues with. It is a story of people and their thoughts and their words, and this is a silent movie .... and so takes a lot longer to do than a stage play. And so characters and subplots need to be cut, but Antoine is -- understandably -- loath to cut them. And so we have the subplot of the shepherd and his lost love raised .... and dropped. We have characters who don't serve any purpose, not even the exposition of the character from the original, since their screen time is cut so severely.
This is always a problem in the translation of a work of art from one medium to another. A movie is not a novel, a movie is not a play, a movie isn't a poem. Heck, a movie isn't a movie any more: they have sound and color and computerized special effects and even the caterer rates a screen credit.
But the problem of translation from one medium to another remains: not only how to translate these words to images -- and Antoine does a superb job of that -- but which words to translate. Here he falls down a bit. Like any fan, he doesn't want to give up any of it, but as a responsible movie maker he knows he must -- and he leaves in just enough to tell us that what we are seeing is not a complete work of art. He belittles own work by not doing a neat job of work, so how seriously can we take it?
Well, there are some lovely images. Enjoy it for that.
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