Immortalizing Literature

“Don’t judge a book by its movie” – this line caught my eye when I had gone to Starmark the other day to pick up a couple of things. It made me smile for the short, impertinent sentence held more truth to it, than perhaps the original speaker knows.

Readers who fall head over heels in love with epic pieces of poetry or story, make a mess out of it when they try to ‘immortalize literature’ in the frame. Half way through the movie, you begin to wish that they had never tried to do this and that you had never spent your money on this movie! But at other times, you feel that the movie is much better than the original story.

Tristan is an age-old German Literature piece, penned by Gottfried von Straßburg – sometime in the Medieval Ages. It was a courtly romance and the gifted poet had never finished his master piece. Later on, Wagner had made it into an Opera that still runs successfully today. We did the story at college and I was deeply interested to see the movie.

The movie Tristan + Isolde was made comparatively recently – in the year 2006. Tristan was played by James Franco (Green Goblin of Spiderman fame) and his love interest, Isolde, was played by Sophie Myles. Both played their parts with excellent ease and you can actually feel what they are feeling – so well was their connection with the audience.

The first thing that the scriptwriter changed was setting the story in Britain. As was the fact, Tristan and Isolde had met before and fallen in love. In Gottfried’s version, the protagonists had drunk love potion, therefore resulting in an adulterous love affair. However, both the book and the movie agreed on the fact Isolde was the prize given to King Marke of Cornwall, who had brought up Tristan like a son.

Even though some jarring errors play in your mind, you begin to warm up to this version of Tristan + Isolde, and begin to think Gottfried ought to have written this courtly romance with this plot.

The main actors, besides Franco and Myles – Rufus Sewell (King Mark), Henry Cavill (Melot) have all done a brilliant job in executing their characters. The war scenes have been shot with perfection. The background score isn’t unlike other romance movies with a tragic ending.

The chemistry between Myles and Franco is simply astounding. The cinematographer made good use of the exotic landscapes selected by Director Kevin Reynolds. The scene where Isolde helps Tristan runaway from Ireland is emotional as well as thought-provoking.

Most people, having read the story, did not take kindly to what had been Reynolds attempt at immortalizing a piece of literature. The audience, were divided into nearly two equal parts where one group; being familiar with the story dismissed it. Whereas the other, thinking this to be an original creation – took it to heart. Shakespeare’s Romeo seems colorless, compared to the valiant Tristan. Even though women had precious little to do in those times, Isolde’s character struck a chord with most romance lovers. Even Juliet’s tragic death is chased away from your mind, when you see the bitter situation Isolde lands in.

The best thing about this movie was the conviction with which everyone – right from the cast to the crew – delivered the film. You can almost feel yourself get transported through time.

Although, I was somewhat disappointed by the script, I would still say Dean Geogaris has done a wonderful job by setting the story in a relatively contemporary era. The movie echoes itself in your mind, long after it is over. The poetry read by Isolde is sweet and rings in your ears like a sad, refrain.

Aniesha Brahma

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