Based on the best selling novel by Louis de Bernières, great things are expected from this silver screen adaptation of Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001). Those who have read the novel will want the movie to be as emotionally involving as the book is, and those who haven't read the book expect a classic love story, as the hype would have us believe.
Set against the picturesque Greek island of Cephallonia, with its amazing views and idyllic pastel coloured scenery is the ultimate contradiction. The contrasting back drop is the harsh reality that is the devastation of the Second World War.
The scene is set and the story begins with local girl Pelagia (Penélope Cruz) who lives happily on the island with her father Dr Iannis (john hurt). Despite her father's notion that his daughter could do better, Pelagia is engaged to be married to local fisherman Mandras (christian Bale).
When the Italians invade Albania, the previously distant prospect of war becomes a frightening reality and the islanders, including Mandras, go to Albania to defend their country against the invading Italians.
Pelgia writes to her intended everyday without reply, through frustration of not knowing if he is dead or alive she begins to give up when he arrives home after the Italians surrender. The domination hungry Germans use their Italians allies to occupy Cephallonia, and the lives of the Cephallonians are turned upside down
The Greek inhabitants reject the Italians at first, but soon they learn to co-exist on the stunning island. The Italian Captain, Antonio Corelli (nicolas cage) is a typical Italian, "great Singer but scared of fighting", and as the Italians settle, throw parties and sing, Captain Corelli falls for the beautiful Pelagia.
The story then details the many confrontations between Pelagia and Corelli within the compulsory "will they, wont they" storyline until eventually they hold out no more - Pelagia calls off her betrothal to Mandras.
Suddenly the war is over and the Italians are told they can go home. The romance looks doomed.
The surrender of Italian weapons to the Germans goes badly wrong; the Italians are betrayed by the stereotypically power crazed unfeeling Germans, who attack and destroy the island's town.
Mass scenes of devastation and destruction follow and all the Italians are killed. Corelli is saved by Mandras who hopes to win back Pelagia's love.....
Captain Corelli's Mandolin has a bit of everything, it looks fantastic, the cinematography is excellent, it boasts A-list movie stars, and has comedic moments juxtaposed with some real harrowing moments.
The love story is interrupted with the violent traumatic scenes of the German army, shooting their Italian allies on the hill top, the setting and scenery are breathtaking until destroyed by bombs and shooting. These scenes are by far the most prominent and thought provoking of the movie, portraying the annihilation that was the Second World War.
John Hurt is very convincing and most brilliant as Dr. Iannis, Penélope Cruz is Good as Pelagia and Nicolas Cage is almost credible as Captains Corelli, although he sounds like a Fast Show sketch with his slightly dodgy and inconsistent Italian accent
The story is well told and even though I have not yet read the book, I understood that the love story between the two protagonists of Cruz and Cage was the focal point of the story, this did not come across in the film, the plight and the hardship of the second world was excellently portrayed and more devastating To this I found the love story a secondary narrative.
I didn't feel empathy for the main characters to any extent, I felt more compassion for the doctor and the little girl Lemoni. The leads only kissed twice and their on screen chemistry was lacking
Over all the film is very good, it looks great and it is a new perspective on the telling of the World War II story, but the despite good performances from the leads I didn't root for them. I will now go and read the book, to see how the story could have been told!