Monday, September 21, 2015

Movie Monday: Madame Bovary

The 2014 Madame Bovary film by director Sophie Barthes is an exquisitely beautiful visual sketch starring Mia Wasikowska as the restless Emma Bovary. I am calling this adaptation a "visual sketch" because the screenwriter and director have taken an epic novel and condensed it into something of a thumbnail, albeit it a lavishly gorgeous one.

The cinematography by Andrij Parekh is impeccable and seamless with the costume designers Christian Gasc and Valerie Ranchoux adding their lush, ornate contributions, particularly to the jewel toned gowns worn to perfection by Mia.  “Madame Bovary” is never less than lovely to look at.

I have not read the book but I am told by my daughter Eve that Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary was not the best casting decisions. The book describes Emma as dynamic, vivacious and naive which for one reason or other they choose not to have Mia embody. As a huge fan of Wasikowska I can't say I have seen her portray these qualities except for perhaps a bit in Only Lovers Left Alive.

I wanted to see this film because of the combination of Mia and delicious visuals that reminded me of the Cary Joji Fukunaga adaptation of Jane Eyre from 2011.

"A Heart Without Love Is a Heart Without a Voice."
~ Gustave Flaubert from Madame Bovary

I had a conversation with Eve the other day about how many people don't like historically set films because they believe them to have no added value to modern life....besides beauty, which some perceive as frivolous. Well, as you know dear readers, beauty to me is one of the most treasured things of life so I beg to differ and despite that this story is over 100 years old it has survived centuries because we are still dealing with the same challenges.

I found this DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT from MSP Film Society

"The entire value of my novel, if it has any, will consist of walking straight ahead on a tight rope, balanced above the two abysses of lyricism and vulgarity."

"Everyone believes I’m fond of reality but I loathe it. It’s my deep hatred of realism that pushed me to write this novel. But I nonetheless hate the false idealism that fools us these days."

- Gustave Flaubert

Those few words by Gustave Flaubert wonderfully reflect his state of mind while writing Madame Bovary. It is precisely this state of mind, this tension between realism and romanticism, between vulgarity and poetry, that have fueled my desire to work on a film adaptation of Madame Bovary. I find this tension very accurate and in tune with the human experience. Flaubert's obsession with finding the "accurate word" is legendary, my obsession as a filmmaker will be to find the accurate tone. Our intention is to respect the spirit of the novel and remain faithful to the psychology of the characters while creating a modern film, which will, hopefully, appeal to a young audience and entice them to discover the book as well as bring a more mature audience to rediscover with pleasure Flaubert’s masterpiece.

The Gustave Flaubert novel takes place in eighteen twenty seven which predates the release of the first modern perfume in France by about fifty years. Thus, her fragrances would have been more akin to colognes and solifleurs. From the novel we have this tidbit which refers to her using "pomade" which is a solid perfume....

“She repeated it in a low voice, for the mere pleasure of it; it rang in her ears like a great cathedral bell; it shone before her eyes, even on the labels of her pomade-pots.”

I will scent Madame Bovary with the solid version of Figure 1: Noir to match her melancholy contrasted by her beauty. Figure 1: Noir contains a dynamic juxtaposition between darkness and light with roots and wood in the base & heart balanced against the fruitiness of the cognac and artemisia in the top notes.

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