|Captain Corelliís Mandolin
Love and war. Pelagia and Corelli (Cruz and Cage) face a rather tricky romantic entanglement.
dir John Madden
scr Shawn Slovo
with Penelope Cruz, John Hurt, Nicolas Cage, Christian Bale, David Morrissey, Irene Pappas, Piero Maggio, Patrick Malahide, Viki Maragaki, Gerasimos Skiadaresis, Aspasia Kralli, Joanna-Daria Adraktas
release UK 4.May.01; US Aug.01
Miramax-Universal 01/UK 2h05
Watching a film based on a favourite novel is always a risky proposition, but I needn't have worried. The power of Louis de Bernieres' prose is such that it's impossible to visualise the story in any other way than he intended it. And the skill of John Madden as a director (Shakespeare in Love) makes sure that the novel's subtleties and quirks work beautifully on the big screen.
At the centre of the big, meaty story are Iannis (Hurt), a village doctor on the Greek island of Cephallonia in the early 1940s, and his daughter Pelagia (Cruz), who is betrothed to local fisherman Mandras (Bale). Then their idyllic world is invaded by WWII. Mandras heads off to fight in Albania, while Italian and German troops are placed on Cephallonia. Soon, Pelagia finds a soulmate of sorts in the Italian Captain Corelli (Cage), a man who loves life and trains his men to sing, not fight. But what will she do when Mandras returns? And how will the war twist their fates?
Obviously, the novel's sprawling, multi-strand structure has been streamlined here, but Madden and screenwriter Slovo have included so much subtext that it's still a remarkably complex film. There are such a wide variety of characters and events that it can't help but grab and carry us through the earthy humour, moral conflicts and battle horror ... all without ever resorting to stereotypes or easy moralising. It's quite simply one of the most intelligent, effective wartime romances ever put on screen, carefully building Pelagia and Corelli's relationship with warmth, comedy, tragedy and honest emotion. Cruz and Cage are excellent in roles quite unlike anything they've done before, but Hurt, Bale and Morrissey (as a conflicted German captain) are the standouts, with colourful, more involving performances that continually surprise us. Equally remarkable is the way Madden and cinematographer John Toll capture Cephallonia's beauty and history without a split second of sentimentality, despite the breathtaking scenery. And Stephen Warbeck's score is gorgeous, using Corelli's mandolin to actually speak! Wonderful.
IndigoJen, Los Angeles: "I was literally drawn into the story, and was even more moved by the war story than by the love story. The acting was all excellent; I thought Nicolas Cage truly lost himself in his role, contrary to my fears, and John Hurt was a standout. It was most fascinating for me to watch the interplay between the Greeks, the Italians and the Germans, the way their common love for music drew them together, and yet the realities of war drew them apart. Excellent stuff!" (24.Aug.01)
Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I regret not making sure what island this movie was filmed on - because I definitely want to go there [NB. It's Cephallonia]. I loved this movie - the scenery, the setting, the people. Set in WWII, an idyllic island is touched by the war - the Germans come and take over, destroying and touching lives - showing that no one is immune to a war. All I can say is go see it on the big screen. Bob said it seemed a bit long, and he got kinda sleepy, but it is not an action-type movie. It is a love story in a beautiful setting, upset by war. Do yourself a favor, and go see it on the big screen while you can!" (26.Aug.01)
Jim Leonard, Los Angeles: "This is a love story set in WWII Greece where Greek freedom fighters resist both Italians and then Germans. Cage plays an Italian soldier billeted with a doctor (Hurt) and his lovely daughter (Cruz). The daughter is promised to a local boy (Bale) who is leading the Greek resistance movement, but she succumbs to Cage's charms (he sings opera with his fellow soldiers and, of course, plays the mandolin). He and his troops are betrayed into the hands of their supposed allies, the Nazis, and must join her - now jealous - former fiance against them. And, of course, she must choose whom she loves. Interesting story based on a true historical incident, I gather from the credits, but no sparks between Cruz and Cage, and thus, not much to watch. I kept wondering what it must be like to be the director and have these high powered and highly paid stars, this beautiful setting and this wonderful story, and sense it was not catching fire when it was being filmed. That would be an ulcer-maker. I would recommend that anyone who has not yet seen it to pass on the movie and read the book." (28.Sep.01)
Joanna Adraktas, net: "I think it was a wonderful flim. It was sad at times though. Nicolas Cage made a very good accent and Penelope Cruz already had a Italian accent that sounded a bit Greek-ish. The young Lemoni was sooooo cute and I cant beleive that a kid of about 6 or 7 could do that. The film was directed very well. Cefallonia is a beautiful island. I have been there myself, seeing I was Lemoni." (22.Oct.05)