Monday, May 30, 2005

I've started to read two books by John Steinbeck. One is 'The Pearl' and the other is 'East of Eden' which is quite an epic. I might be able to finish 'The Pearl'. It seems to be just as brilliant to be honest. One of the main characters in 'East of Eden' - Samuel Hamilton is from the north of Ireland. Maybe one of the Ulster-Scots. Whilst I have only scratched the surface of this book, it appears that Samuel Hamilton is being portrayed as honest, hardworking almost puritan which is in stark contrast to Adam Trask.

I remember spending lazy Sunday afternoons listening to East on Eden being read as the classic story on Radio Four. I didn't get to hear it all but it always seemed to be wonderful and reading it is exactly the same.

Yesterday I watched ' The house of Sand and Fog' probably one of the best books I read last year. The film is remarkably good. Ben Kingsley is perfect as Behrani. Whichever way round you want to do it, I would still say read the book first. The only difference I can detect is that the book was slightly more balanced, in that it focussed on Behrani and there was a good deal more about his sense of guilt for being in Iran. It went into great detail about the fact that this man was simply a good hard worker in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn't know about the bad things that were going on by his fellow officers until it was too late. He felt guilt that he had survived whilst his friend had not. Yet, he survived to go to America to be treated literally like rubbish.

In the film the emphasis is more towards how good and decent Behrani is compared to the lazy, nasty Americans who are determined to punish and ruin his family. I can understand that it is quite trendy to downgrade USA in films because that makes them more controversial and also anything that is seen to offend Iran is definitely not a good thing. But still I think a filmmaker has the responsibility to take a book and remain faithful to the original text. You don't have to include every line of dialogue but at the least you do not start adding meanings that are not in the book.

Perhaps I am being too pedantic, it's a great film - go and see it!


Cocobarks said...

Hi Buddy,
I loved The House of Sand and Fog, both the book and the film. I read the book first and was impressed by how closely the film actors resembled the characters I had imagined in my mind while reading. I also was impressed by how, throughout the novel, I had this never ending sense of dread and anticipation and that, with the opening scene of the film, that sense of dread and and anticipation returned instantaneously. I must say that I didn't pick up on America bashing. I also wonder why you say "anything that is seen to offend Iran is definitely not a good thing"? The Iran from which Behrani fled is not the Iran of today. I think Andre Dubus III did a good job of representing his character of the woman who was clearly depressed and feeling unable to access family support. I think there are many Americans who feel this way. Some legitimately are abandoned to some extent by their families and others, due to their depression, simply perceive it that way. Regardless, their lives spiral out of control. I also think that it's not hard to find a guy like the deputy sheriff who is lacking something in his life that would permit him to essentially throw away his family to be the hero in someone's life. It makes him feel alive or something. It's immature but not uncommon.

Have you read anything by Regina McBride? She's an American author who writes Irish fiction. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about her stuff although I fear she may be a chick book author. I don't know as I don't know any men who have read her. The women I know who have read her have enjoyed her novels very much.


Igneos said...

Hi there Coco,

I feel it is very easy and even commercially profitable for artists such as film makers to criticise their own governments. It is very easy to do and they don't have to actually do anything, they just talk the protest and they become 'rebels'.

I also suspect that they didn't include the content about Iran - Behrani's background because they didn't feel confident that they could stand up to criticism from Iran. It would mean they might be threatened and they might have to 'make a stand' about something rather than just say the right things to become a rebel.

Needless to day I agree with your other comments, the book was inevitably more intense than the film.

Best wishes,


Cocobarks said...

Hi Rod,
I agree kicking the US is easy and perhaps even fashionable amongst the Hollywood people these days, but I didn't notice that in Sand and Fog. I think they focused on the relationships that would be most familiar to the average American moviegoer for reasons of time limits (a movie can only run so long) and acceptability amongst the national audience to which it wanted to appeal (thanks to Oprah having chosen Sand and Fog as one of her book club selections, Hollywood had a built in audience for this film). I suspect they avoided the whole Iranian perspective because the Hollywood people assume that the average American wouldn't care to see or would not understand the Iranian situation.

I suppose criticizing the US government makes the Hollywood elite, as the Republicans like to call them, appear rebelious, but to me, they are just following the money train. With so much of the movie industry's profits coming from the foreign market, it makes sense to also attempt to play up to the people who are ultimately paying Hollywood's big salaries. Business is business and for many in Hollywood, ethics do not play a part in that business. If supporting the US government were to give them big profits (like it did in the 1980's), then they'd do that. Right now, the US government is out of fashion around the world, so the big money is in exploiting the follies and foibles of it.