‘My God, a whole moment of happiness! Is that too little for the whole of man’s life?’
I’ve re-read Dostoevsky’s ‘White Nights’ prior to watching this adaptation and even in second read it seems one of the most beautiful and sentimental love story about two drifted souls where sweet and wishful dreams of four nights punctured with reality’s break of dawn. The nameless dreamer of the story is a solitary young man lives in his own world of whims and fancies. This pensive man meets a sympathetic girl waiting for her lover night after night at canal railing on night. What follows are nights where two lonely hearts encounters each other and share their gloomy past to each other and becomes almost as desirable lovers. It ends with anguish for one and bliss for another…the romantic dreamy nights of rain, snow fall ends with break of dawn that shatters this fine romantic dream in the climax.
Luchino Visconti’s screen adaptation of the story is almost faithful and honest to the original one with minor changes of cinematic translation. The expressionistic B&W camera work so beautifully captured the setting of streets, the bridge, the mist, the night lights, the rain and the snow fall, Dostoyevsky’s regular setting of St. Petersburg here recreated with fantasy and reality hand in hand like an opera by Visconti and Nino Rota’s slow evocative score pushes it forward. Marcello Mastroianni as dreamer is as perfect and as effortlessly natural as always. The film is brilliant one compared to poor Bollywood adaptation ‘Saawariya’ made by Sanjay Leela Bhanshali; and I wonder whether he’s inspired from this film or the original story because it seems that he’s inspired from the first but credited the story in his version.
Visconti’s adaptation keeps the spirit of the story alive but still there’s no alternative to the original story as the philosophical underpinnings of the dreamer is missing in this screen version.