Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Wide Sargasso Sea"-The Movie (1992)

It has been a long time since a book has moved me as deeply as Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.    Maybe I lost myself or at least any pretension of objectivity in the beauty of the language.    Imagine you are on a tropical island somewhere, lying where the waves touch the beach, looking out on a lush jungle.  The last thing you really want to do is think.    The more you can give yourself up to the sheer bliss of the prose of Wide Sargasso Sea the more deeply you will experience it. 
Yesterday I was surfing through the channels available on Sky Cable TV here in Manila.   To my great surprise, on The Velvet Channel  the movie set to start was Wide Sargasso Sea based on Jean Rhys's novel.   Of course I had to watch it even though I was worried it would not come close to the book.    Here are the production details of the movie:
"Wide Sargasso Sea" has been rated NC-17 (No one under 17 admitted). The film has complete nudity and sex scenes that are frank without being graphic. Wide Sargasso Sea Directed by John Duigan; screenplay by Jan Sharp, Carole Angier and Mr. Duigan, based on the novel by Jean Rhys; director of photography, Geoff Burton; edited by Anne Goursaud and Jimmy Sandoval; music by Stewart Copeland; production designer, Franckie D; produced by Ms. Sharp; released by Fine Line Features. At Cinema 1, Third Avenue at 60th Street, Manhattan. Running time: 100 minutes. This film is rated NC-17. Antoinette Cosway . . . Karina Lombard Rochester . . . Nathaniel Parker Annette Cosway . . . Rachel Ward Paul Mason . . . Michael York Aunt Cora . . . Martine Beswicke Christophene . . . Claudia Robinson Amelie . . . Rowena King
Of course I very much wanted to see Antoinette on the screen.   She is perfectly  played by Karina Lombard.   Antoinette is not conventionally beautiful.  She is not an English rose.    She is a Jamaican octopus orchid.     We feel her passion for Edward Rochester and believe in her descent into madness.   She may overact a bit in a fight scene but she has to convey great depth of emotion and feeling in  a small time frame and does it well.   Her final moments in the movie may well give you shivers as they did me.

Edward Rochester is played by Nathaniel Parker.
The movie does completely play to the Jean Rhys interpretation of Edward Rochester as a colonial master who cannot understand his wife any more than he can relate to the freed slaves on the island as full human beings.   

There are, of course, things left out of the movie.   The brother of Antoinette is very well played by Michael York.   Edward Rochester is shocked to his depths by the fact that the mother of his wife's brother was owned by her father.   This does not stop Edward from treating women of African descent as if they were his property to do with as he likes.   The version of the movie I saw has about 2 minutes removed from it due to censorship of cable TV in the Philippines.    I watched the movie twice and I will, I hope, see it a few more times.   The Velvet network tends to repeats movies over and over!

Here is a link to the movie trailer.

I wish Jean Rhys could have seen this movie.   I am not sure if she would have liked it or not but I wish she could have gotten some money from it.    There are some very interesting and intelligent comments on my blog left by those who felt Jean Rhys was unjust to Rochester.   I read Jane Eyre for the first time about ten days after reading Wide Sargasso Sea.   I accept that maybe I was so mesmerized by the beauty of Jean Rhys's language that I may have given an overly anti-colonial reading of Rochester.   Whether Jean Rhys got Rochester right really does not affect the artistic merit of either work but Jane Eyre is much more than simply a great Victorian novel.   It is a cultural treasure of huge import and value so that makes it worth considering if Jean Rhys got it right.   I am still inclined to say, with some qualifiers of course, that she did.   I will reread Wide Sargasso Sea soon and will reread Jane Eyre after I read all the other Bronte novels I have not yet read.   You will understand this movie if you know the basic plot of Jane Eyre.   The scenery is lush and beautiful.    Some of the dialogue in the movie is just as written, which was so wonderful to hear it spoken.   I liked this movie a lot.

I am including this review for

The All About the Brontes Challenge and
The Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge

Mel u


cbjames said...

I've not seen this movie. I do count myself as a fan of both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. I've never considered the question of whether or not Jean Rhys got Rochester right. It's not an issue to me. I see him as two seperate characters in each novel. I should look into the movie version of them both.

Suko said...

I should look into getting this book, or seeing this movie, or both. Wide Saragossa Sea sounds like a story I need to experience.

Astrid (Mrs.B) said...

As you know I love Jane Eyre, so I was happy to find a second hand copy last month of Wide Sargasso Sea. Still haven't read it but I'm looking forward to it after your review and I wish I could see the film too!

Traxy said...

Nathaniel Parker is lush! I think I've seen bits of this, years ago. Would like to see it again. Thanks for the review! :)

Mel u said...

cbjames-I think I need to see some of the movie versions of Jane Eyre now-

Suko-I hope you will like both and would very much like to read your reaction-

Mrs B-I am glad you got a copy of Wide Sargasso Sea-seeing the movie will shape your view of the book so maybe as you said you should wait-only issue with waiting is the opportunity to see it on cable may not come back for a while

Traxy-I hope you get to see the full movie-I have watched it twice already-it may never come back on cable tv here in Manila-

Anonymous said...

I selected The Wide Sargasso Sea as one of my choices for the What's In a Name Challenge (it fits the body of water category), and it's also a Pulitzer I believe. I didn't know there was a film, but I want to read the book first. It's interesting to me that you read Jane Eyre after...I love that novel.

Mel u said...

Dolcebellezza-I did not know there was a movie of the book either-just by a very lucky coincidence I found the movie starting as I was going through the channels-I ended up watching it twice-it is no longer on cable here in Manila-the movie will effect how you see the characters if you see it first-I will be eager to hear how you like the book