Love In The Time Of Cholera

Love In The Time Of Cholera


Reviewed by: Chris

Love In The Time of Cholera is a very ambitious film. Sadly, its reach doesn’t quite meet its stretch. But there are very good reasons why you should watch it anyway. Experiencing everything conjured up by the work of Nobel Prize-winning writer García Márquez in the book it was based on, possibly isn’t one of them.

Some things don’t translate easily to film. The degree to which you enjoy them might depend on your power to dream, and your willingness to paper over the cracks.

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Think back, for a moment, to when you first fell for someone. That heady feeling. Your heart is beating faster. Your mouth is dry as they approach. Your whole being concentrated in a single aim. A single passion. The world seems a wonderful place. There are no problems that cannot be surmounted. For some, falling in love is like suspending disbelief. Can that act of faith last a lifetime? Or do we put the book down if love goes wrong?

Put yourself in Colombia. The time is the late 19th Century. Our hero is young and enamoured. But what would you do? You are unquestionably in love. You are 100 per cent certain your lover is in love with you. But then – hell’s bells! - they reject you!

This is another film from the award-winning pen of Ronald Harwood (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Oliver Twist, The Pianist) but I wonder what people will make of his adaptation. The main difficulty is the premise and having a single actor play the lead, from youth to elderly Romeo. Florentino falls in love with Fermina. When she rejects him for a wealthier suitor, he waits more than 50 years for her husband to die. During this time, he assuages his pain in the arms of some 600 women. Unlike Casanova though, we do actually still feel sorry for him. He remained faithful at heart. But although Javier Bardem’s marvelously expressive acting gains our sympathy, the special effects to enable him to age so much strain belief a bit more. You really do have to throw yourself into the romance of it!

The book has some subtleties that aren’t obvious unless pointed out. We can deduce that lovesickness is meant as a physical disease, as is cholera. (The good doctor whom Fermina marries is an expert on the latter.) But I wasn’t aware of the pun in Spanish where ‘cólera’ can also mean human rage and ire. The social strife that forms a backdrop to the story also makes sense of this, as cholera the disease seems fairly insignificant.

The film contains passionate and enduring love, and Oscar-worthy songs written especially for the film by Colombian-born Shakira. As is often the case with Gabriel García Márquez stories, the characters are very intense, and with epic tales to tell. And how many films do we see shot in the beautiful, lush but strife-riven Colombia? I loved every minute of Love In The Time Of Cholera. Flawed as it is, I found the film bold and colourful. Its themes and the dilemmas faced by Fermina are played with sincerity. She gets her cake only after eating it in the form of an aristocratic marriage to a devoted husband. Then gets another devoted husband. Of course, you may say that having 600 women and still getting the girl of your dreams is just male wish-fulfilment...

Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2008
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The story of a man whose life and relationships are dominated throughout his life by his love for the one who got away.
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Val Kermode *

Director: Mike Newell

Writer: Ronald Harwood, based on the book by Gabriel García Márquez

Starring: Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Gina Bernard Forbes, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Marcela Mar

Year: 2007

Runtime: 139 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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