Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Possession by A.S. Byatt + Film Adaptation

Now and then there are readings that make the hairs on our neck, the non-existent pelt, stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark... -Possession, Pg. 512

For NaNoWriMo last November, I wrote a story about a man who moves into an old house. While renovating, he discovers old letters and journals from a time long ago. These documents provided leads into old, mysterious deaths and a disappearance of a family.

My point: I love stories like these. Huge secrets that leave small clues scattered into various places. Long-lost letters; famous poems. It's like a puzzle or maze. Turn the right corner and you will be rewarded beyond anything you could have comprehended.

Possession started out slow. The first hundred pages or so were basically a set-up for what was to come. Afterward, the story moved slow, but not in a boring way. It was like each beautiful secret was being slowly, graciously unveiled, as if hesitant to show us. We were met with poems and short stories, which some readers seem to skip, as if it hinders the flow of the story. These documents are the story. It gives us the thought that these two fictional poets were actually real. These writings give them life, breath, a voice. Why skip a part of a book? What's the rush?

If you're someone who easily gets impatient and just wants to 'get to the point', then do not waste your eyes here. If you can't sit and watch a beautiful story slowly unfold, Possession is not for you, and that is sad.

Example: For one chapter all there is is the correspondence between these two poets: Ash and LaMotte. It's over forty-five pages of letters. This was my favorite part. To see a relationship grow in words. The early letters starting out with civility moving slowly towards friendship and then slowly to love when we see sentiments like 'My dear' and 'Yours always'. It was gorgeous. It was exquisite. It makes me miss the beauty of letter writing. A great art form that has slowly died out.

My reaction when I was finished was me staring straight ahead, focusing on nothing, breathless and fighting back small tears. The last two chapters were hauntingly sad. I can't even form words to describe it.

The modern day story was good. It wasn't paper thin or unsatisfying, but of course, my mind was eager for the story of the past.

Read Possession if you're looking for a story that when you reach the end, you will be rewarded. You will feel that your journey was not in vain

I watched the 2002 film adaptation of Possession after finishing the book last night. I guess I expected at least a halfway decent adaptation, but I didn't get it. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but I felt the modern day story fell flat, while in the novel it was intriguing. I didn't feel that the Maud and Roland characters were that much developed throughout the film and I didn't feel as though there was any real chemistry between them.

And parts were choppy and felt hurried, which I felt was a travesty to the beauty of the story. I felt as if I didn't read the book, I would have been a bit confused, but I digress.

Let me get to the two things I loved about this adaption:

-Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle as Ash and LaMotte. Their scenes together were absolutely indescribable. They were exquisite together and they were the only two actors in the film which I felt were perfectly cast. Now, there was definitely chemistry between them, no question.

-The beautiful score. The music captured the scenes and mood of the film inexplicably.

Would recommend watching this after you read the book, but it could, of course, stand alone.


Anonymous said...

I tried really hard to like this book. Attempted to read it about three times. I think it was the academic theory that did me in, as I recall, about Melusine.
I liked the movie, though. I agree about the chemistry between Northam and Ehle. I tried picking up the book again after watching the movie. And put it down. Again.
At this rate, another attempt is due sometime in fall of 2010.