Saturday, February 9, 2013

Photo February - Day Nine

The Rivoli, Camberwell

My book group will tell you that there is one thing that will make me roll my eyes and groan quicker than the mention of "That Cat Book".

This object of disdain is Russian Literature.

Russian Literature is in my bucket of pointless things - it's up there with zucchinis / courgettes (the world's most pointless vegetable), Pomeranians (World's most pointless dog), Crocs (The world's most pointless shoe) and Tony Abbott (annoying and pointless - just like his policies)

Okay, I can take Chekhov, but as he writes plays, its over and done with quickly. When it comes to your Tolstoys and Dostoyevskys and Turgenevs, sorry, I find their works as interesting as watching paint dry.

This all stems from having to attempt to read Russian Literature at university and compounded by the Anna Karenina debacle at book group a number of years ago, back before the lolly vote came in. Since the lolly vote, we've had very little to complain about (just that Cat Book), thank goodness.

When some nuffer suggested Anna Karenina, I put up objections that an 800 page book was too long to read in a month, knowing that wading through this turgid dross was going to be almost impossible. Somehow, this objection was overridden and Anna Karenina was supposed to be read. In the end, the book group meeting was delayed on a number of occasions and eventually three of us turned up to the meeting and only two of us read it. Most of the group gave up after 100 pages siting it was all too hard.

A big thing about Russian literature is that you have to decipher everybody's names - everybody has three multi-syllabic names and then a nick name or two. Drives you up the wall. The other thing I really don't like about Russian Literature is that it takes a couple of hundred pages to for anything to happen. Not that much happens anyway.

See, pointless.

Anyway, all I can remember about reading Anna Karenina was thinking every twenty pages, "Has she jumped under the train yet?" Okay, its a bit wrong, but you're listening to the person who thought the best thing about Les Miserables was when Russell Crowe jumped off the bridge.

It's fine, I just don't like Russian Literature. The rest of my book group doesn't appear to like Salman Rushdie (other than Merijn - I think Rushdie is the only writer we agree on) so it's not like we don't accept differing opinions.

Today, despite all my objections to the dreary Russians, I took myself off to the cinema to see the new film version of Anna Karenina. At two hours and ten minutes I thought I could do that without cringing too much. Knowing that Joe Wright was directing - I've loved Atonement and The Soloist, and with Tom Stoppard adapting the screenplay, how bad could it be?

Actually, I have to say, I loved it. Okay, there were times that I wanted to scream at Keira Knightley to go and eat a couple of kebabs, but other than the emaciated star's protruding vertebrae, I loved what they did with the film. Set in and around a theatre, the sets and costumes were sumptuous. The acting was fantastic, though Vronsky did look like he'd just got out of puberty and he had to work hard to make up for a really dodgy moustache, which was a bit unsettling. Seriously, I loved what they did with the film. Not too long, the main points were settled - wonderful. Best of all, the way the film was styled, and stylised - you always knew where to look, but were taken in my the beauty of the whole film. It's a gorgeous film to look at.

And just like any film that pays homage to a piece of literature, you're left wondering about the characters. Karenin - cuckold or conniving? Vronsky - playboy or pawn (or Mummy's boy). You have the wonderful counterpoint of Anna's brother Oblonsky and the wonderfully idealistic Levin. And Anna - a woman in the wrong or a wronged woman?

It was all there.

And I realise that I took in more of the book than I thought. Just like when I saw "Life of Pi" a few weeks ago. I wasn't that enamoured with the book, but really enjoyed the film. However I found myself discussing the film with a colleague and being rather disturbed by the fact that they hadn't read the book.

"It's all in the book - it's allegory. It's the whole point of the book - what we do the keep ourselves sane and alive. The whole book is an extended allegory for the human condition."
"Really, what's allegory?"


So on leaving the cinema today is it any wonder that I wanted to throw a fellow patron down the Art Deco staircase?

"I didn't like it," was the comment that came from behind me as I went down the stairs at the Rivoli. "Why did she have to die?"
Sheesh! Anna Karenina has been taking a swanny in front of a steam train for over a hundred years. And just as Piscine Molitor Patel was in a boat on the Pacific with his mother, a recalcitrant cook and a vegetarian sailor, not a hyena, an orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker, just as the last fifty pages of James Joyce's Ulysses mimics a woman's been there for years.

It's written like that.

Read the freaking book!

1 comment:

Kath Lockett said...

I've avoided Russian literature very successfully thus far. 'War and Peace' is in the bookshelf but has never yet been reached for.

LOVED 'Life of Pi' the book but haven't seen the movie yet.