Tuesday, June 5, 2012
MM Movie Review: Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Captain Corelli speaks Greek, takes an immediate liking to Pelagia and stays at their house in exchange for providing the doctor with medical supplies. Captain Corelli and his men are pretty much walking stereotypes. The are lustful, wine loving, opera singing artillerymen who have never fired a shot in anger and who would rather have a good time than fight or observe military discipline. They are the relaxed, fun-loving guys and the Germans (the few we see) are all rigid, militaristic jerks. The actors are all good but they have not been used to best advantage. A good example being Cage’s ridiculous attempt at an Italian accent. Personally, I think it is often better to just speak your own language without attempting an accent if you cannot master it properly. Mandras returns from the front and is nursed back to health by Pelagia and his mother (played by Irene Pappas who was also in the previously reviewed “Lion of the Desert”). He never wrote back because he is illiterate, which Pelagia did not know (and evidently he could not ask a friend to write for him after they read him the letters where she is clearly becoming forlorn and distraught at his silence but … oh well). Especially when compared with the novel, the characters in the film come off as extremely simplistic to the point of being rather flat.
The Nazi forces still promise to send all Italians safely home but Captain Corelli no longer believes them and so the Italian forces decided to resist and defend the Greeks and their island from the Germans. Working with the partisans, they distribute what weapons they have and deploy their forces to fight the German invasion. There is a short, fierce battle in which the Italians offer determined resistance but they have nothing to counter the German air attacks and are eventually vanquished. The Germans then gather together all the Italian prisoners and begin massacring them. Captain Corelli would have been killed but, keeping a promise to watch over him to Pelagia, one of his men shields him with his body and saves his life. Mandras finds him and brings him to the doctor and Pelagia and the doctor manages to save him even though he was very badly wounded. He stays hidden with Pelagia as the Germans kill any Italians and anyone found harboring Italians in a wave of brutality. Captain Corelli is finally smuggled off the island by Greek partisans and returns to Italy.
The movie is not as bad as the reputation it has gained as one of Cage’s more infamous stinkers. It’s just not very good either. It is heavy on stereotypes, everything is pretty predictable and it tells the sort of story most moviegoers have seen a hundred times. However, it can be moving at times, the characters are generally sympathetic and so on. The only ones I had a real problem with were Mandras and the German. Mandras because he simply comes across as being, well, not a terribly nice guy. If he loved Pelagia as much as he claimed he should have answered her damn letters, he admits he only saved Corelli for selfish reasons and he allowed a lifelong friend to be murdered just because she danced with a German (and I’m not going to say there was more to it because the movie didn’t show us any more). The German comes across as sort of an innocent guy who has been brainwashed but in the end he is just as brutal as the rest (though he does spare Corelli’s life) and we see no reason for this, no change in him or anything of the kind. However, as I said before, I will give this movie credit for at least getting more people to read about the real story of Italian heroism on the island of Cefalonia during World War II, something which received very little attention before the book and movie came out.