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Vol. LXI, No. 47
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM: Florentino Arizo (Javier Bardem, right) falls helplessly in love with Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiomo) even though he is beneath her socially and financially. When her father intervenes to end the romance, Florentino continues his adoration of Fermina from afar for decades in a distorted sense of spirituality and love.

Love in the Time of Cholera: Márquez’s Novel Marred by Film’s Deletion of Magical Realism

Kam Williams

Compromises are inevitable whenever a novel is brought to the big screen, especially a 368-page saga that spans 50 years, which is what we have in the case of Love in the Time of Cholera. Written by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez in 1985, this imaginative tale of unrequited love is a literary tour-de-force that posits that an enduring crush on a woman is comparable to a disease such as cholera.

When condensing a novel into a movie some central characters, major themes, and pivotal events have to be conflated, distilled, or eliminated entirely. However, director Mike Newell, (Harry Potter 4), had an additional challenge when it came to adapting Márquez’s novel. His works contain magical realism, a style of prose popular with Latin American writers that has plotlines grounded in reality that are offset by surreal flights of fancy.

Unfortunately, Newell’s adaptation of the book fails to include any of the original work’s connection of the everyday with the otherworldly. Consequently, excised of its evocative aspects, Love in the Time of Cholera lacks charm and becomes a typical romance novel.

The story is set in the city of Cartagena, Márquez’s hometown, and involves a classic love triangle. The movie starts at a funeral which took place about a half-century or so after the story’s beginning in 1879. In the flashback, a lowly clerk and would-be poet Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) first meets Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiomo), a beautiful maiden with a wealthy overprotective father (John Leguizamo).

Despite Fermina’s initial indifference, Florentino professes his undying devotion (“I have discovered the reason for my existence.”), and proceeds to pursue her despite her lack of interest. Soon they start exchanging notes and sharing stolen moments together until her father discovers their liaisons.

He forces Fermina to end her relationship with Florentino and then pressures her to consider the more suitable Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt). She accepts the doctor’s marriage proposal, which turns Florentino into a scary stalker.

Even after the newlyweds move overseas, Florentino impatiently awaits for decades the return of the woman he’s convinced is really meant for him. Over the intervening years he convinces himself that, for her, he is still a virgin because he never gives his heart to any of the women involved in the 622 sexual conquests he carefully records in his journal.

Love in the Time of Cholera is almost laughable, since it asks the viewer to accept Florentino’s unrealistic rationalization that he has remained faithful to Fermina in spite of his conquests over the years. Consequently, when Márquez’s protagonist substitutes serial coupling and uncoupling for spirituality, the masterpiece has been reduced to a superficial soap opera.

Fair (one star). Rated R for sexuality, nudity and brief profanity. Running time: 139 minutes. Studio: New Line Cinema.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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