19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A sumptuous plot reduced to the bare essentials,
This review is from: Captain Corelli's Mandolin [VHS]  (VHS Tape)
CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN is based on the book of the same title by Louis De Bernieres. "Based", at its loosest definition, is the operative term here. I would estimate that about 60% of the film has been faithfully translated from the book, the remainder being concocted from scratch to enhance the dramatic elements for an audience's short attention span. On the other hand, about 50% of the original, written version has been ignored. When one realizes that the film depicts a time span of about 7-8 years, while the novel's plot spans over 50, then this truncation is not unexpected.
CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN is a truly excellent literary piece. The screen adaptation is ...well, not bad, especially if it's your first exposure to the story. The main character is Pelagia, a young woman growing up with her widowed father on the Greek island of Cefallonia during World War Two, and who loves two men: Mandras, a neighbor who fights both with the Greek Army and the partisans, and Captain Antonio Corelli, an officer serving with the Italian occupying force. Generally speaking, both the book and the film examine the effects of the conflict on all four. The vast difference is in the particulars.
Since the cinematic version was photographed entirely on Cefallonia itself, what it accomplishes superbly is to enable you to visualize the locales if you subsequently read the book for the first time, or again. (Not surprisingly, Pelagia's house, the village, and the beach were everything I'd imagined them to be in my mind's eye. This was most satisfying.) Moreover, Nicolas Cage is a perfectly adequate personification of the charming, music loving Captain Corelli. (Indeed, I understand that Cage learned to play the mandolin specifically for the role.) And, from this male's point of view, gorgeous Penélope Cruz is absolutely exquisite as Pelagia. The best role is John Hurt's as Pelagia's physician father, Iannis, who's at his most excellent in a scene wherein he imparts wisdom to his daughter on the nature of Love vs. Falling In Love. Also very good is David Morrissey as Captain Weber of the German Wehrmacht, ultimately devastated by the conflicting demands of friendship and duty. Less successfully, Christian Bale is cast in the role of Mandras, a credit of dubious distinction since that character has been completely gutted in the transition from the novel to the silver screen. (If I were Bale, I'd sue.) And nowhere to be seen is the novel's comic relief: Psipsina, Pelagia's pet pine marten.
I liked this movie well enough. But sometimes a canvas painstakingly painted with small brushes and soft pastels has more appeal than the same oil dashed off with wide brushes and loud colors. The joy is in the subtlety and nuances of the details and shading. See the film if you have the opportunity, but do yourself a favor and make time to read the source material.