Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not-So-Gentle (Re)Viewer: The Magus (1968)

Having read The Magus by John Fowles a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pick up the film version from the library, despite the negative reviews. Just about the only good thing I can say about the experience is that I didn't pay for the privilege.

To be honest, the movie starts off fairly strongly, though it was odd for me to see a young Michael Caine and Candace Bergen on screen. While much of the novel is about how "life is like a book," the transition to film went fairly smoothly and became instead "life is a stage." What didn't translate well on film were Nicholas Urfe's motivations--his emotional responses to the strange occurrences on the Greek island are internal, not external, and so don't come across well on screen.

As is the case for most film adaptations, the book was condensed and simplified, characters deleted and scenes shortened. While I understand the necessity of the cuts, they resulted in a loss of some of the most important themes of the book: racial tensions disappeared (which were so prevalent in the 60s), the mythos of the island abandoned, the interest in psychoanalysis dropped, and Julie/Lily's role on Phraxos never fully explained.

In addition, the climax (the "trial" scene) of the movie illicited a strong WTF? response and would have been completely confusing for someone who had not read the book. (As someone who has read the book, I couldn't help but wonder if they just ran out of funding.) Conchis' interest in psychoanalysis is never fully explained in the film, and so the final scene seems random. In addition, the ending of the film does not show Nicholas' emotional growth and so the whole thing seems like just a strange hazing experiment. I guess I would have to agree with Woody Allen's analysis of the film: "If I had to live my life again, I'd do everything the same, except I wouldn't see The Magus."

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails