Thursday, July 20, 2017
Movie Review: Camille (1984)
Marguerite Gautier is played by Greta Scacchi. Armand Duval is played by Colin Firth. Duval (Armand's father) is played by Ben Kingsley. Prudence is played by Billie Whitelaw. Count de Noilly is played by Denholm Elliott. Gaston is played by Patrick Ryecart.
This was a made-for-television adaptation of Alexandre Dumas fils' novel/play Camille. There's a great line of dialogue in this one: "Love me less, or understand me better." It's something that Marguerite is saying to Armand. That simple phrase says so much about this story.
The movie opens with a plea of sorts: a dying Marguerite is writing in her journal, confessing everything to Armand, pleading with him to understand her.
One of the first scenes of the movie shows Marguerite with her abusive father. At the very least he is verbally abusive, but, I lean more towards physical abuse as well. Regardless the movie opens with a very young Marguerite deciding to LEAVE HOME--for better or worse. She makes her way to Paris with just the clothes on her back. No money, no food, no place to stay, no plan on how to survive. She's desperate. Perhaps sensing her desperation, an older man, an Impressionist painter, offers to pay for a meal if she'll sit and pose for him. She eagerly accepts. In fact, she devours the food as if she hasn't eaten in days. But the painter has more than a sketch in mind. To be blunt--and this takes place offscreen fortunately--he rapes her. At first she scorns the idea of staying with him, she looks at him with hatred and disgust. But she realizes that her body is her commodity. With it, she has a way to get food, wine, clothes, jewelry, a place to stay. She still doesn't like him--but she realizes that they can use each other for a while. She'll hopefully find someone richer, someone better to take his place. She's definitely on the look out. She's "discovered" by the Duke de Charles. He finds that she looks like his now-deceased daughter. He is looking for her to take the place of his daughter. He wants her off the street; he wants her cleaned up; he wants her to stop selling herself to men. He's willing to treat her like a princess, gifts of money and jewels, an unlimited amount of credit it seems. But there are strings attached. She's to be a good girl.
Armand Duval is introduced early in this adaptation. Viewers first see him with his father and his sister celebrating life. His father seems to be encouraging his son to be YOUNG and to LIVE IT UP in Paris while he can. Armand becomes close friends with the wealthy Gaston. And the two seem to like women and booze. Like might not be a strong enough word. Let's just say the two are lusty young men.
So how do these two meet in this adaptation? Prudence spots Gaston at the theatre. Gaston tells Armand that Prudence was his first lover, that as an older, much-experienced woman she was a great teacher. Gaston and Armand go home with Prudence that night. Prudence is Marguerite's neighbor. When Marguerite invites Prudence over, she says she has two guests. Marguerite says COME WITH YOUR GUESTS AND RESCUE ME FROM THIS SUPREME BORE, the Count. For Armand, if you believe in such things, it's love at first sight. For Marguerite, however, she's not wanting to fall in love with any young man. Especially a poor one.
The rest of the story follows the other adaptations for the most part. Though Armand seems very much a jerk in this one. For example, his father tells him: do you know that by being with her you are ruining your sister's chance for marriage? Do you know that her wedding could be called off? And he's like MY SISTER LOVES ME AND I'M SURE SHE'D RATHER SEE ME BE HAPPY. Also, there were a few times at least when Armand crossed the line into abuse--in my humble opinion. He tells her IT'S ONLY BECAUSE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH THAT I ACT THIS WAY. And her response is: LOVE ME LESS OR UNDERSTAND ME BETTER. I think those are wise words indeed under the circumstances.
The characters are oh-so-human in this adaptation. Neither comes across as a saint.
Overall, I am definitely glad I watched this one. It is more of an interpretation of Dumas' work than an adaptation of it.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews