In 1941, Italy allies with Germany and ruthlessly conquers the much weaker country of Greece. On a remote Greek island, an Italian artillery garrison is established to maintain order. One Italian officer, Captain Corelli, adopts an attitude of mutual co-existence with the Greeks and engages in such activities as music festivals and courting the daughter of a local doctor. In 1943, however, after Italy surrenders to the Allies and changes sides in the war, Captain Corelli must defend the Greek island against a German invasion.Written by
Anthony Hughes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have to admit that I approached this movie with a sense of expectation and dread. Louis de Berniere's bestselling novel is one of my favourites and anyone who has read it will realise that there is no way in hell that any screen adaptation can be 100% faithful.
All the way through I found myself convincing myself that the movie was unsuccessful, and had stripped the book's plot back so far as to render it redundant. The ending, however, is much better than that in the novel, and I could not stop thinking about the movie afterwards. Still, the plusses (John Toll's magnificent cinematography, Stephen Warbeck's great score, etc) I felt did not outweigh my initial negatives (Cage's miscasting, a heavily diluted script).
But, two days later, I was queuing again to see Corelli, and although not perfect, I have to admit now that the movie is the best anyone could have expected. Cage is actually brilliant in a role that even de Berniere was concerned was not a fully rounded character: his carefree spirit which gives way to shattered remorse is spot on, and complements the superb double act of Penelope Cruz and John Hurt perfectly. David Morrissey is quietly effective as Weber, the Nazi officer trying to reconcile his feelings for his newfound Italian friends and his inbred superiority complex to those around him. And the fine Greco-Italian supporting cast bring de Berniere's sundrenched world of Cepholonia dazzlingly alive.
On leaving the cinema second time around, I finally let go my passion for the novel which prevented me from fully appreciating the story of WW2 Cepholonia in cinematic terms. My hat goes off to John Madden who, despite the almost expected critical drubbing he is receiving from the British critics (any director who has had a major success like Shakespeare in Love behind them is always a target for these moaning ninnies!),has managed to transfer a terrifically difficult book to the big screen with such heart, verve and humanity (the core virtues of the novel, in fact) that he has created another classic love story that will probably only be fully appreciated when the dust has settled a few years from now.
If you are a fan of the book, like me, it's hard, but try not to make the same mistake on your initial viewing. Try to erase the book from your mind for two hours, bathe yourself in the glorious Mediterranean atmosphere, and discover Corelli, Pelagia, Mandras, Dr Iannis, as if for the first time (pretend you're watching something made from an original screenplay), and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
In fact, you'll be eagerly waiting to own your own copy of this delightful movie on video or DVD.
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