By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Fiennes is too moderate for passions of such biblical proportions. He can’t harden his moist eyes and girlishly petulant mouth into the profile of the lover who wants to drown love in bile. When Bendrix rails against Sarah and God, prompting a priest to reply that he‘s “a very good hater,” it doesn’t ring true, because the actor is neither a good nor a remotely convincing hater. He‘s not a convincing lover, either, and Jordan has done him no favors. Greene was an unembarrassed connoisseur of the flesh. In the book, the first time the couple have sex it’s in a cheap hotel, and Bendrix reveals that it wasn‘t good the way that the first time often isn’t good. Jordan prettifies Greene‘s human exchange with choreography, discreet lighting and the sort of effortless female ecstasy that exists only in the male imagination, or pornography. It’s beautiful, even a little hot, but it‘s also as phony as a backlot clinch. Jordan isn’t giving us real bodies and real emotions in this scene, he‘s giving us movie sex -- no misplaced elbows, no awkward noises, nothing human and pulpy -- glossing up the eroticism in the same way he glosses over the novel’s ferociously uncompromising attitude toward faith.
Greene was a cynic, but he was relentlessly compassionate toward his characters, at least once he found his voice. Jordan is actually less forgiving, because he tends to give his characters ideals to live up (and down) to, rather than having them tough out prickly emotional truths. As a filmmaker, his weakness is a sentimental streak that runs as deep as his cynicism, and it‘s the perilous balance between these two that can make or break his work. In The End of the Affair, Jordan goes easy on Bendrix and Sarah, but mostly he goes easy on Greene, a decision that seems less like failure of nerve than misplaced conscience. Such sentimentalism is a poor fit with Greene. In 1939, in his capacity as a film critic, Greene wrote, “How much better they would have made Wuthering Heights in France. They know there how to shoot sexual passion; but in this Californian-constructed Yorkshire, among the sensitive neurotic English voices, sex is cellophaned; there is no egotism, no obsession.” Watching this well-behaved adaptation of one of Greene’s most personal novels, you can‘t help but wish that the novelist had been around to write his own script. It’s easy to imagine him rebuking Jordan for doing the very thing Greene said Hollywood did to Emily Bronte: treating the story with reverence rather than with the merciless human feeling with which it was written.
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