Madame BovaryLondon Film Festival 2014
Saturday 11th October, 9pm – Odeon West End 1
Monday 13th October, 3pm – Odeon West End 2
Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a tale of a deluded romantic, held up by flawless prose and an unequaled sense of realism. But without such literary masterstrokes, it’s a story that never moves beyond the presentation of protagonist Emma as overly emotional and delusional.
As those familiar with one of the many previous incarnations of Madame Bovary will be well aware, the story follows Emma – a young women at the end of her tutelage at a parish – and her marriage to country doctor Charles in a small village outside of Rouen. Unable to live within her means, and beguiled with a longing for romance and passion, Emma quickly racks up an incredible amount of debt in the name of her husband, while simultaneously carrying out affairs with multiple suitors.
There’s no shortage of feature films that attempt to bring Flaubert’s masterpiece to upper-class, aristocratic, life, and so it makes sense for director Sophie Barthes to want to differentiate. She does this most strikingly by refusing the typical preference for clipped English accents, throwing in American actors without the pretence of an affected accent. It’s a bold move, and a refreshing one, but there appears to be no discernible rhyme or reason for which characters have which accents. Perhaps the yanks are representative of romantics and conmen, while the British actors are more earthy folk, or perhaps it’s a case of region. There’s no explanation that fits neatly, and, for the most part, it seems to just be representative of each actors place of birth. That is except for Rhys Ifans who, to throw yet another spanner in the works, foregoes his Welsh accent in favor of an English one.
Unfortunately, there’s little else to differentiate this interpretation. Dress and decoration sticks rigidly to the period setting, while the script itself occasionally skips over it, allowing a few anachronistic turns of phrase into the final cut.
Notable turns from established actors – Ifans and Paul Giamatti among them – are plausible enough, while promising up-and-comers Mia Wasikowska, Ezra Miller and Logan Marshall-Green are disappointingly bland. An over-reliance on montage to condense the not insubstantial novel decreases the opportunity for memorable performances.
Director Barthes has shown promise in indie sci-fi flick Cold Souls, but the period genre appears to be too a little too restricting for her. Moreover, the film suffers from being overtly grim while never really putting across the depths of Emma’s misery. Madame Bovary is many things, but making her a spoilt brat is an oversimplification to say the least.
Madame Bovary is released in the UK on 11th October 2014.
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