Love in the Time of Cholera (Mike Newell, 2007, USA/Mexico/UK)

Love in the Time of Cholera, while perhaps not regarded as one of the worst adaptations of a great novel, is certainly not looked upon fondly. If anything, it is simply forgotten. This despite the fact that Javier Bardem, who plays the obsessed Florentino Ariza in the film, won the Academy Award the same year of its release for No Country for Old Men. It is clear in some ways why the film doesn't work so well. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's has an almost absurd quality, being about a teenage love that comes to dominate a man (Florentino) for his entire life. This tragicomic sense, or sense of irony, is lost in Ronald Harwood's highly literal screenplay and Mike Newell's workmanlike direction.

Newell is a competent director, but he does not have the obsessive attention to detail or visual flair that might be required to make a successful adaptation of Cholera. The fact that both the writer and the director of the film are British, with no particular connection to Colombia or Latin America might have something to do with this. Not only this, but of the three main leads, two are European (Javier Bardem and Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and one is American (Benjamin Bratt). While I do not believe that every adaptation needs to be in the local language of the writer and with local cast, in the case of Cholera it feels that something was lost due to decision to shoot entirely in English with a main cast of non-Latin American actors.

Bardem is less funny but more creepy throughout this adaptation - maybe he was still feeling his role as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. The resulting adaptation is too long and over-literal, and while it does look nice, it does not capture the spirit of the novel or anything interesting.


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