Sunday, June 05, 2005

Enduring Love

(Dir Roger Michell, with Daniel Craig (Joe), Rhys Ifans (Jed), Samantha Morton (Claire), Bill Nighy (Robin) & [the woman in the wheelchair in Notting Hill] as Robin's wife.)

I really should have paid a bit more attention before going to this movie - I went along because I'd read the book and saw that the movie was about to close. As a result, it was something of a shock to see one of my favourite acresses - Samantha Morton - and then another to see one of my favourite actors - Bill Nighy - turn up on screen. Not that Nighy had a major part: he was the mate who offered a place of refuge and the occasional voice of sanity to Joe.

I was convinced that somewhere along the line I'd said something about Ian McEwan's novel, Enduring Love, but it appears not. As a book, it was quite hard going, and I can't really work out what people who have not read the book will get from the movie (not that the movie closely follows the book; towards the end there are substantial changes). Sure, they'll be on the edge of their seats in the opening scenes, when Joe sees a hot air balloon with a young boy in it starting to get out of control. He, and a number of others in the locale, rush to his aid, all clinging desperately to the ropes. Eventually, the height gets too much for all of them, and they pretty much drop simultaneously - except for one, who finally lets go when it is far too late.

One of Joe's pre-occupations throughout is whether he was first to let go, and thus made it harder for everyone else and, in a way, causes the death of the last man hanging. In the book, there is the suggestion made, one which is finally answered in the negative, that maybe this tragedy has led to Joe becoming unbalanced and thus imagines all that comes afterwards. The film doesn't really make that suggestion at all: we see Jed fairly early on, see him inviting Joe to join him in prayer, see him get more and more obsessed with Joe, to the point that he becomes convinced that when Joe is innocuously opening and closing the curtains on his flat, he is really signalling to Jed. People have complained the film is slow, and it is I guess, I even managed to go to sleep at one point, but it has a point - the development of Jed's obsession and the way it wreaks havoc on Joe's life, particularly in his relationship with Claire.

Of course, the title is of significance: one of the major enquiries is as to the endurance of love (or whether we can endure its onslaught). Despite there being lots of proof around that people are falling and staying in love, Joe's philosophical stance is that love is just biology, that it doesn't endure, doesn't even really exist. He even gets to teach that in his job as uni professor, of philosophy I think. So, it is a nice reversal to have Jed stalking him out of love, not just human love but as an expression of the love of Jesus. But there's a huge change in the movie from the way that this caused Joe and Claire's relationship to just sort of stutter to a close in the book. The movie is much more decisive and close-textured, there is a more definite re-affirmation which kind of takes the edge off much of what Joe had been saying. I think McEwan had a much darker and more cynical attitude in the book, but I suppose its hardly surprising to find a movie softening the hard edges provided by a book.

I'm left not really knowing what to make of this movie myself: sure it was beautifully made, Isphan made for a wonderfully obsessed stalker but it didn't call for all that much from the other actors, particularly my favourites. Most of what Samantha Morton had to do could have been done by pretty much anyone.


Blogger Marie said...

Lady in wheelchair is Gina McKee. But she isn't in Enduring Love. I think you might be confusing her with the equally excellent but slightly less recognisable Helen McCrory.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Ah, thank you - that makes sense.

10:16 PM  

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