I saw Mad Max today. I loved it, but S detested it ! We are still getting used to this difference in our tastes ! Either way, I felt that the movie had much to do with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) than with Max (Tom Hardy) himself, but well, Tom Hardy is Tom Hardy. I was gaping at his scenes throughout.
That reminded me of the first time I took him seriously. It was the BBC adaption of Stuart: A Life Backwards, which continues to be one of the few books that continue to haunt me. Thinking of Stuart, brought me to Birdsong. For both stories, the screen adaptations were very nearly as heart-breaking as the books themselves.
Stuart: A Life Backwards was a strange sort of book, dealing with the biography of a homeless man. Though the summary which I read before launching into the book, felt like it was another milking story, aimed at capitalising on the indifference of a man, but as I ploughed through the book, I found myself being drawn ino the life of a man much like any of us. The differences are obvious, but it was an eye-opener on many levels. There is no sense of overwhelming pity or hysteric grief, but a very factual, no-nonsense description, bordering on what would probably qualify as a well-made documentary. However, the BBC adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy was as far from being a documentary as possible, it was endearingly humane and the two media combined have bred in me an imense amount of respect for little Stuart. I believe that was teh ultimate aim of Alexander Masters: baring the soul of a man to make us see beyond the apparent grime and senselessness. And that soul, scarred as it is, is soft and vulnerable and above all, attracts respect.
Birdsong similarly, is a journey of tragedy and redemption and survival. There are multiple characters who shaped the contours of the story, but needless to say Stephen Wraysford was the heart of the story: moulding it with his own heartbreaking disenchantment along with the brutality of the First World War. It was a story of empathy and pain and silent reflection. And it was brilliantly brought to screen, partcularly by Eddie Redmayne, who played Wraysford. War stories are meant to be shocking and painful, but this one only borrowed its premise (as often found in stories set in that period) as a backdrop, dwelling in deeper issues of love, loss and coming to terms.
I am currently in the nascent stages of War and Remembrance, and while Herman Wouk, unlike Sebastian Faulks, has a way of stating the War in a tone of fact, rather than in the flowing, biting, poetic manner of Faulks, it succeeds in evoking similar sentiments of foreboding and futility. Mad Max didn't help much either, given that war, and a very cruel war understandable doesn't seem to spare this dystopian universe. While it is far from being pleasant, as I was trying to rationalise it to S, it is all about drawing inspiration. At the end of the day, there is some peace in knowing that some good comes from all this suffering.