I registered here just so I could say this. I've also written a review of this marvellous book for amazon. I'd watched this BBC3 mini-series,then seen the recent Heath Ledger movie,but I wasn't convinced.I felt the urge to go back to the source, Casanova's Memoirs, as written by the man himself. I started off with an abridged edition, now I can't wait to read the whole thing! Many fellow reviewers here seem to consider this mini-series historically accurate. It's definitely better than the Heath Ledger version, but still only a pale shadow of the Casanova that comes to life when you read his autobiography. It's not so much that the facts are wrong (though some are),as the emphasis laid on events, and the tone is just totally off.
I approached the Memoirs with some fear,as I imagined they'd be rather boring, or dated, or rambling.How wrong I was! I found myself taking the book to the loo with me, unable to put it down while I was doing things around the house. I took it to work with me and read it whenever I had a spare moment in the office.I cannot express how fascinating the real figure of Casanova is, and how amazing, bizarre, amusing and exciting his adventurous life was. If this wasn't the most interesting man that ever lived, he came damn close. His life was so eventful, it could have filled the lives of a dozen normal men. The best fiction can only dream of being half as entertaining! His beautiful writing style, smooth as silk, makes him come across as clever, witty, insightful, sharp, elegantly sarcastic but not cynical. He was arrogant, yet self-deprecating. He was also comically big-headed, but ultimately likable for his emotional honesty, his amazing intelligence and great imagination,some would argue *too great* an imagination, even! He was interested in so many aspects of life, from the recipe for making the best hot chocolate to the great philosophical issues of his age. He mingled with rich and poor alike and was interested in all walks of life.
In contrast, David Tennant's Casanova is just an ordinary cheeky, good-looking young buck. He has the subtlety and culture of a Big Brother contestant.His wit and ways would probably not charm people two and a half centuries from now. He is not someone you could imagine outwitting Voltaire, impressing Frederick the Great, making revisions to the libretto of a Mozart opera, writing history books, being a magician and an alchemist, dabbling in sci-fi (no,I'm not kidding you!),translating the Iliad, playing the violin, a chemist and mathematician and many more things besides. Reading Casanova's memoirs, you'll feel like you've been teleported to the 18th century! I never felt that way while watching the mini-series,it was just another swashbuckling adventure starring a nice-looking but predictable cheeky chappy not even pretending to be anything but an ordinary English lad. Of course the now-obligatory "woman of character" who wins his heart was also there -I have to say Laura Fraser was quite lovely,though.
The real Casanova was famous for being a great seducer, but it wasn't so much the number of women he bedded, as the way he did it that's remarkable. Scholars say he had just over 200 lovers,which isn't huge by the standards of someone like a successful contemporary rockstar. Bur Casanova was interested in every aspect of seduction and that included engaging the lady in discourse as well as showing her a good time between the sheets.He wouldn't bed any old bimbo.In an age when women had no right to a satisfying sex life,Casanova was well ahead of his time. He wasn't moralistic about women and their sexual behaviour, believing they had as much of a right to enjoy sex as men, something unheard of at the time.He was more concerned with giving one woman he really liked several orgasms during the course of one night, than bedding more women during that same night, just so he could add more notches to his bedpost. Also, it isn't true, as the movie adaptations say, that no woman could resist him, as some did reject him. Also oftentimes it was women who seduced him rather than the other way round, he was also duped and exploited by some of them,and he did meet many strong and intelligent women in his lifetime.
Before you think I'm idealising him,let me say that he was also an appalling figure (again, something you never get a sense of in the mini-series) and was a living contradiction. He could be an exquisite gentleman and on other occasions, a rogue. He also spread std and unwanted pregnancies around Europe, though he did occasionally do his best to avoid fathering illegitimate children. But by his day's standards, Casanova was a man who genuinely loved and respected women,believing them to be rational creatures rather than bundles of hysteria and emotional fragility. It's difficult today to appreciate how revolutionary that was. Unlike proper cads, he remembered all his conquests as individuals, describing them in detail as thinking,feeling creatures one by one.He was also famously bisexual,something that the mini-series doesn't even hint at! Despite macho the stereotype, Casanova was actually worlds apart from this laddish model of masculinity. Though some scenes in the book are rather explicit, even shocking,he is never vulgar or gloating. He also saw the humour in sex.
I even got my parents a copy of Casanova's Memoris, and they're in their late 60's! On the other hand,Tennant's Casanova occasionally comes across as smarmy,and the sex scenes are nothing special,just sex as anyone could have it. If you ever read the Memoirs, you'll never look back! Even the escape from prison is far more interesting in the book. Please do yourself a favour and skip this mini-series,as well as the Heath Ledger movie. Treat yourself to Casanova's autobiography instead,something I assure you you won't be regretting. You can thank me later! ;-) Mini-series:4/10, Casanova's Memoires: 10/10
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