Friday, September 2, 2011

THE STRANGER (Italian) (1967)

‘Lying is not only saying what isn’t true. It is also, in fact especially, saying more than is true and, in the case of the human heart, saying more than one feels. We all do it, every day, to make life simpler. But, contrary to appearances, Meursault doesn’t want to make life simpler. He says what he is, he refuses to hide his feelings and society immediately feel threatened.’ – Albert Camus

Perhaps no other book made as striking impact on me as Albert Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ a.k.a. ‘The Outsider’. I read it first time almost twelve years ago and it shocked me. I read it again few years back and it stimulated me and made an indelible impression on my mind. Director Luchino Visconti’s this screen version is line by line authentic adaptation of Camus’ existential masterpiece and its moving and striking one. Visconti remained stick to the original book without adding anything of his own and it’s hard to decide whether it’s required in this otherwise so complete and compact book of mere hundred or so pages. But still I feel that it would be great film if made by either Bresson or Tarkovsky- the Masters of cinema about indomitable spirit of human soul.   

It is the striking and existential tale of a solitary man who doesn’t know how to pretend what he feels, what he thinks unlike all others of society. He refused to lie to others and to himself. They’re shocked to see the  atheist who didn’t express grief at his mother’s funeral... the day after her funeral he enjoyed the company of his girlfriend on beach and on bed and still confessed that he doesn’t love her... his boss gave him a lucrative job offer to Paris that could change his life and he replied he doesn’t really care simply because it’s impossible to change one’s life. And then under scorching heat and blinding sunlight one afternoon he committed an extenuating act of error by shooting a man on beach. He’s convicted and when lawyer asked him ‘would you explain to me the motive or reason of your act?’, he replied, ‘I think it was the sun.’ The courtroom trial and proceeding raised many existential questions about him but above all it’s his refusal to satisfy the feelings of others that played pivotal role that increase his guilt in the eyes of law.

Is he being tried simply for his crime or for his personal emotions? His hard truth is something which is unacceptable in pretentious fake society that claimed him the stranger…the outsider and give him death penalty. The lawyer called him a vile soul, monster and Mr. Anti Christ but he’s exactly the opposite of all that! The climax is full of ideological friction and struggle between existentialism and Christianity shared  between the convict and the priest. Marcello Mastroianni who impressed me in Fellini’s two masterpieces gave his consummate best with his well restrained and well expressed performance. He honestly attempted to be in the skin and mind of Meursault on screen. He’s finely supported by Godard’s muse Anna Karina and all other satisfactory cast. Visconti maintained the spirit of Camus with minimalist approach with authentic setting and production. The only thing seems heightened is the courtroom trial sequence with loud oratory of lawyer…perhaps the end part could be made better!  


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