Friday, September 17, 2010

L'heure zéro

I saw, without much expectation, Pascal Thomas's 2007 adaptation of Agatha Christie's Towards Zero as L'heure zéro  and was very pleasantly surprised, Thomas showed a scrupulous fidelity of the text, using names in the text as much as possible, or seeing the closest French equivalent, Nevile Strange became Guillaume Nouvelle, Audrey became Aude, Kay became Caroline, Thomas Royde Thomas Rondeau, etc. This showed both a certain ingenuity, a game-playing in the realm of translating miming the greater game of the puzzle and the text constituted by the original work, and also showed a comprehension that, in adapting Christie, fidelity matters, unlike the recent British adaptations, which have exploded the text in search of a more gratifying 'story'; the adaptation  of The Secret of Chimneys, that most delicate and pleasing of farces, made it into a creaking melodrama, and made the text's most genial character into the movie's villain. The French adaptation approached Christie as if she were Shakespeare--not to say that she is anything close to Shakespeare, but that her texts respond similarly to attempts to keep the plot and characters. that the setting was French, the language was French, made little difference, the integrity of the original was there--only in two small points did the movie stray from the text, and the only crucial one is that a certain car accident is meant to be an accident, not a part of the murder  scheme for artistic reasons: not all bad things in life are the product of malevolence, there is risk, fortune, which of course has been an element of many tragedies. I was surprised that so little was lost in making the milieu and characters over into French  one,s and perhaps we need to reevaluate Christie;s presumed cozy Englishness, ,perhaps this is not in any way essential to getting her work right, no more than Jim Thompson's; rough-hewn Americanises proved a barrier to rendering his oeuvre into French adaptations. French academics (Pierre Bayard) and writers (Michel Houellebecq)  have been at the forefront of recent revaluations of Christie, but there is more than a touch of irony in their championship  of her; this movie took her completely straight, and provided a gratifyingly faithful and intricate rendition of one of her best, and most engrossing, novels.

The two wives of Guillaume were, incidentally, both played by children of famous actors, Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Marcelo, and Laura Smet, daughter of Nathalie Baye. Both were stunning. 

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