I finally managed to watch all of the 1958 film of Tale of Two Cities last night. Not everything lives up to expectations, and my memory of this was much richer than the experience. The 1946 film of Great Expectations, which I talked about earlier, is by far much better cinema, and a much better telling of the original story.
I was really disappointed in the omissions, the way the time line and plot line were compressed, and the acting. Never mind that Dickens has never created a credible female character, I actually found myself disliking Lucie… at least in the book she had some affect and depth of character.
All the passion and melodrama seemed toned down, hidden behind a proper stiffness. It is hard to explain. Mr Lorry was not fussy and embarrassed enough. Jerry Cruncher was neither funny nor sinister… but I won’t go on. The love scene between Carton and Lucie was touching, and ironically juxtaposed with Darnay’s proposal and kiss. The climax was as I had remembered it… Sidney Carton on the tumbril, comforting the young girl who had recognized him and guessed his sacrifice. Madame Defarge absent because of her encounter with Miss Pross. The ominous sight and sound of the descending blade!
Dirk Bogarde, who plays Carton, acted in many fine roles, but it was one of his last films that especially showcased the wonderful expression of his features. Death in Venice, based on the world-famous masterpiece by Nobel laureate Thomas Mann, is a beautiful movie, one I would like to see again on the big screen and with a fine music system.
The story follows ageing writer/composer Gustav von Aschenbach who, suffering from writer’s block, travels to Venice to find inspiration. After arriving, Aschenbach encounters an almost unnaturally beautiful 14-year-old Polish boy named Tadzio, with whom he becomes obsessed. Give yourself a treat. Here is the whole film. And here is a condensed version Tod in Venedig, set to the music of Mahler. Don’t worry about the German dialogue… there is very little of it, and the music and images say it all.
Here is a review by Eric McMillan of the film. He tries to explain how film manages to capture the mood of the novelle. This is a website I have recommended before, and will check often!
There is also a new translation of Death in Venice by Michael Henry Heim.