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Love in the Time of Cholera

2008-04-11 11:24
What it's about:

In 19th century Columbia, Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) falls in love with the beautiful Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). But Fermina's father persuades her to marry a successful doctor, Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), who she also seems to love. Though Florentino sleeps with over 600 women, he never loses his love for Fermina. But does she still love him – and will their love ever be consummated?

What we thought:

Love in the Time of Cholera is based on a novel that's at once simple and extremely detailed. It's a boy meets girl, boy tries to marry girl, girl forced to reject boy, girl falls in love with her husband, first boy keeps on loving girl for ever and ever, story. And it gets even more interwoven than that – the main protagonist is neither a hero nor a villain. The characters' faith outlasts the reader's belief in love, but somehow the story's journey is so fascinating that this doesn't matter. It's also an insanely romantic book. It's about the complexity of love. It's about how there's more than one kind of love. It's about how all the pain is worth it. It's about how all the pain is never worth it, and how old age and death will rob you of everything one day anyhow. And more. It's… complicated.

The book has this power because of its complexity, but also due to the persuasive, rhythmic humour of Marquez's writing.

Cutting the central characters down to three – a necessary step when adapting this for film probably – changes the story from one about many lives mingling into a story that's mainly about true love thwarted. But a far worse loss is that of the author's voice. Only the ghost of Marquez's storytelling touch lingers in the film version, serving mainly in the dialogue. Moments that in the book were deeply touching become merely cute, the tender sense of the ridiculous that pervades the novel is sacrificed for the sake of a few "ho ho" laughs at the expense of the quaint characters' foibles.

As a result, the film basically becomes a stylish costume drama set in 19th century Columbia instead of a European garden court. And stylish is not an exaggeration. You can't fault the cinematography or the exotic and beautiful settings. Even the odd aging patterns of the two stars (they seem to grey and wrinkle at random rates) shouldn't bother you if you accept that experience matters as much as years, and the final lovemaking scene between the two oldies is bravely rendered. The original music – by Shakira – is a gorgeous fit for the visual spectaculars.

But sweeping as the setting is and much as the filmmakers and actors have tried their best, Love in the Time of Cholera ends up being so achingly boring that it almost becomes… poignant in its emptiness. Without Marquez's power to overwhelm you with his words, only a series of beautifully rendered events remain. The final scene still makes the softies cry. But the central story doesn't hold you like it should.

- Jean Barker
Gabriel García Márquez's unequalled romantic love story is a gorgeous, faithful and long-awaited adaptation. But the film just doesn't achieve the novel's emotional climax.

Marlien 2008/03/13 1:05 PM
Love in the time of Cholera I just want to find out where I can purchase the book?
marco 2008/03/13 2:57 PM
why give it away the book is available at every good bookstore. but why give away the ending in your review? Some people may not have read the book and dont want to know, even if they're curious about the film. I dont understand how you give away endings like this.
Smellycat 2008/03/14 12:43 PM
Agreed Great - review! Agree 100% was horribly disappointed by the movie. Painful to see how someone can screw-up a classic book this badly!
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