Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Directed by John Madden
Written by Shawn Slovo
Starring Nicolas Cage, Penélope Cruz, John Hurt, Christian Bale

 

Captain Corelli's Mandolin

This is a strange film. Everything is in place for a thoughtful, moving study of interesting people caught in a world that has powers far beyond their ability to control. It is set on a small Greek island just before, during, and after World War II, and tells the story of the island doctor (John Hurt), his daughter Pelagia (PenÚlope Cruz) and the two men she loves: the local fisherman she is engaged to, Mandras (Christian Bale), and the Italian army captain Antonio Corelli (Nicolas Cage), who comes when the Italians invade the island early in the war and he is billeted in her house.

The Italians are portrayed as happy-go-lucky types, singing opera all day and love songs by night. They don't want to be there and they don't want any trouble with the locals, but then a garrison of German soldiers comes and, well, you know. Meanwhile Mandras has gone off to join the underground resistance, Pelagia writes to him but never hears back, and one thing leads to another with Corelli, one afternoon on a picturesque hillside. And then of course, Mandras comes back home to lead the local resistance, while Corelli, once Mussolini has surrendered to the Allies, will lead the Italians against the Germans.

There you have the bones of the plot, and with the right script and casting it could be powerful, but unfortunately no one in the film shows any emotional connection to anyone else. Hurt's character has more interest in speaking to the audience with aphorisms about life and love than he does in talking with his daughter. She, in turn, spends more time running up and down the village streets in filmy dresses than in relating to either of her men. In fact I don't believe she puts even two sentences together when she talks to anyone. Mandras, who does not read but somehow has managed to keep her hundred letters to him without responding even once, is even briefer. So it is left to Mr. Cage to speak for everyone, which he does in an Italian accent that has no resonance or authenticity (yes, I know he is of Italian descent himself, but go see "The Godfather" for believable Italian accents).

In fact everyone in the film speaks in what's been described as mittel-Mediterranean - Greeks, Italians, and even Germans. But an even worse problem is what you might call the 'no-one-home' syndrome. The actors mouth their lines but say nothing real or authentic to anyone else. They just bounce the lines off of each other. These people are simply stick figures, and not human beings. The writer, Shawn Slovo, and the director, John Madden (who had done such a fine job with "Shakespeare in Love") are so busy making plot points that they forgot about the people in the film. But in a movie more than two hours long, we would wish for at least one truthful moment. We don't get our wish.