By now you have noticed how my writings on film appreciation have differed to some other kind which I myself do not possess any control on the change. Of course the notification only applies if you are that faithful in reading this blog consistently, in which the idea itself frightens me out. If you are on the opposite side, I extend my gratitude and welcome you, indeed.
The change itself pretty much is easily identified on how I have recently often dwelled on absorbing the whole impact of the film. In other words, it is what I feel afterwards, what my heart says after the credit title finishes rolling, and I can sit in front of this monitor to pour out every single initial sensory reaction to the films I have just seen.
By any means, this kind of writing would usually put aside technical matters or basically the elements that make the film works, for example, some technical flaws on cinematography, or inadequate music scores, or the one that I talk about most is actors’ performances. Not that I see myself capable in delivering in-depth discussion about that, yet I always find the tryout in touching those mentioned factors appealing, and to some extent, intriguing, as well as challenging my mind to think those through.
However, tonight I have decided to return to the so-called root, as one film has awakened, or rather tickled my curiosity in examining the ‘outer’ look seen on a screen. The film is Shadowlands.
In a nutshell, the film tells the story of that famous author, C.S. Lewis, and his marriage to an American woman, a poet, named Joy Gresham. The characters did exist in real life before, therefore it is aptly called that the film is based on a true story. This will lead to general understanding among smart audience that no matter how the film is mirrored after events ever existed before, certain aspects of exaggeration in the name of dramatic purpose is needed to make a film worth watching. Therefore, is it necessary to put the words “This is a true story” on the very first scene of the film?
Having already seen that on a screen, as audience we are led to believe by the director (none other than Sir Richard Attenborough of Gandhi fame) that he guarantees what we will see for the next 127 minutes are exactly what the couple did on their lifetime or the ways they behaved towards each other is guaranteed real to a maximum effect.
The result could not be more disappointing than seeing the screenplay full of worth-quoting wisdoms has become something of half-baked done. Surely the main actors, Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, have delivered their excellence, yet the problem of their convincing portrayal of ill-fated couple lies on our perceptive towards them. In other words, their convincing portrayal fails to convince us in thorough comprehension of their love story.
In particular, Winger on her Oscar-nominated role here was given a character with many possible deeper exploration in seeing her gracious falling from a strong-willed, independent woman, to become a woman who has to compromise her unfortunate condition while doing her best to provide affection to her partner in life. Yet, the falling on her character is badly translated as the falling of her screen presence, in which after a good knockout for the first hour in the film as a leading role, she is reduced to become some supporting player. Worse, I begin to think that the last hour of the film, we see Winger’s role has become a damsel in distress, only to be puffed with lavish look of 1950s gorgeous costume and panoramic view.
Luckily, being a consummate thespian on her own, Winger carried her duty amazingly well, although it is a pity to see the butchering.
Hopkins himself might not see his presence reduced to a mere filler of the screen unlike his compatriot. How can it be when his face occupied most of the film? Yet, his inhibition of character leaves us bedazzled in wonder and confusion, as often we find the character’s change is something forced to happen. As a famous writer himself, C.S. Lewis might visit his sentimental feeling in order to emphatize with his own suffering, yet as a noble man with dignity, a weeping scene that lasts for more than ten seconds would only make audience thinking that the old man is a meek, weepy senior citizens who should be back in his emotional reclusion. Talk about the backlash of intended depiction.
I sincerely hope by now you do realize that whenever a resourceful literary works is adapted into a big or small screen, it is no easy feat to capture the truest essence of the works being adapted. Worth-quoting wisdoms, mottos, or any symbolic words are not able to hold on their own unless they are transformed as a coherent screenplay which allows us, the audience, to see the development of characters convincingly, thus we are convinced that whatever we witness in the screen is a journey worth taken, and remembered.