Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Love in the time of cholera

Did I love the book? Yes I did
Did I hate the book? Yes I did

When I saw the movie at the rental, I first thought of Kite Runner and decided not to watch it. But then curiosity got the better of me and I am thankful it did. Maybe because of my low expectations or maybe because of the abundance of mammary glands on display, I liked the movie a lot.

But mind you, this is what wiki has to say “Time rated it "D" and described it as "a serious contender [for] the worst movie ever made from a great novel ... Skip the film; reread the book."

And this is what I have to say, “You need a Nobel prize in patience to re-read that book” The inference -> Time is trashy, I am classy!

I read the book coz I paid a lot to buy it in the first place. It was an exercise in patience for me. The initial part of the book is extremely slow going, but once you reach the middle there is no stopping.

Gabriel García Marquez has woven a story that is intricate and enchanting around a story line that is depressingly ordinary. The essence of this story is about its characters rather than the story itself.

The story revolves around Florentino Ariza, the jilted lover. Some say that the pivotal character is Fermina Daza, a logical conclusion considering that she is the center of attraction for two men, her husband Juvenal Urbino and Florentino. But to me, there is no question. The perverted yet spiritual, sick yet romantic, complicated yet naïve, irritating yet sympathize-able (ok, I just ran out of words!) love and character of Florentino makes him the undisputed protagonist of the novel.

The story is about two young lovers Florentino and Fermina. Fermina's father disapproves of the love. For two long years they are separated from each other, but their love keeps growing with each letter sent. The moment Fermina returns back to town, Florentino rushes to see her and they meet in the market. But in that one lucid moment, Fermina “just knows” that Florentino is not the right person for her (after two years of passionate letter passing!). Even before the reader murmurs “ah! But why?” she gets married to the rich, handsome doctor.

So, is she just a bitch who dumped somebody for money? Nope! The next 50 years of her life are completely devoted to her doctor and philanthropist husband. Meanwhile, Florentino passes these years with two main themes. One, to try and forget Fermina, which he is unable to do and two, to wait for her husband to die.

Then comes the most perverted part of the story, about how Florentino tries to “forget” his love for Fermina. He does this by f****** anything that moves. He even keeps a record of it in his diary! Readers are constantly reminded of this perversion on his part and then alternately made to sympathize with him when he suffers greatly due to his true love. I say “made” because I really believe that Marquez has the skill to make the reader feel whatever he wants us to feel.

Finally when he says in passing that he has known more than 600 women, I (and you, assuming you are male) end up thinking “Daivamae!! enthoru aneethi!*”.

Apart from this “perverted novelty” of the novel, another extremely interesting part is the concept of love in old age which Marquez has beautifully dealt with. It is an eminently thought provoking part of the novel. Florentino proposes to Fermina on the very day that her husband dies. Initially, she fumes with rage at this affront to her widowhood but later they become lovers again (at the age of 80?). Fermina a strong person with hardly any misgivings is left wondering whether her life would have been better with her lover.

Finally it is the characters in the book that make it a classic I guess. Characters that make you hate and love them alternately. Suffices to say that even Fermina's pet parrot has "character"!!

Coming to the film, it has selected the right(read nude) scenes instead of falling into the usual trap of trying to show too much of the novel. The actors, except for Urbino are how I imagined them to be. Giovanna Mezzogiorno(Fermina) with her no-nonsense body language and excellent dialogue delivery fits her role perfectly. She is also the most challenging character to enact in the movie, since Fermina in her youth, Fermina in her marriage and Fermina the widow are very different characters.

Florentino Ariza’s character remains the same throughout and Javier Bardem was able to do it full justice. The scene where his uncle shouts at him for writing business letters to clients in the fashion of a love letter and his reply to it are nothing short of classic. It shows Florentino for what he is, the hopeless romantic. Again, the scene with him fornicating in his office as his uncle drops by, shows his perversion (though comically) the very same way it is in the novel.

If you catch hold of the novel do read it, if you catch hold of the movie, do see it. For there are only few such!

*That doesn’t need translation!


Pointblank said...

I'm glad that u said u both loved n hated the book! I felt pretty much the same. I read books cuz its a book that one is 'supposed' to read! But yup, it takes a whole lotta patience and is painfully slow. Tho it picks up momentum later. But to be honest, I cant say i completely understood. Shud read it again n get that Nobel prize :P

Pointblank said...

I readn this particular book cuz its a book that one is 'supposed' to read. Thts what i meant!

Abraham Menacherry said...

Pointblank: yep, same here, thats the only reason I "finished" it.