Well, one challenge in particular and it’s not one I was expecting to have any difficulties with.

I’ve read two books for this challenge now but my local cinema has not shown either.  This doesn’t surprise me, actually.  It seems I have esoteric tastes when it comes to cinema. Not so, really but I’m definitely not in tune with the Lanarkshire filmgeist.   Usually I find myself driving 30 miles to Glasgow to the big Cineworld complex (30 screens)  in Renfrew Street.  But even that has failed me, not once but twice so far this year.

I do insist on reading a book before seeing a film.  And perhaps if I’d been quicker off the blocks I may have been able to view the first of my chosen titles which had two Oscar nominated performances.  A sumptuous historical drama chronicling the last year of Leo Tolstoy’s life.  Jay Parini’s The Last Station leapfrogged its way over The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy  to the top of my TBR precisely because the film was to be released and I read it with heavy heart –  because it was destroying my mindseye idyll of the Count.  I knew I was on dangerous ground – of course, I’d heard the rumours but I’d preserved the reputation of the author of War and Peace by wilful ignorance.  But 2010 has decreed that the cotton wool is to be discarded.  First The Last Station, second Sofia’s Diaries and third, The Kreutzer Sonata.  (Film release in April.)

That said, Parini’s novel dishes the dirt in an even-handed way.  While Sofia comes through as wronged, she is also hysterical and impossible to live with.  I’m sure I would have found it impossible to remain balanced, in the face of the idealistic nonsense that she endured. I can’t wait to see this film – I’m sure Helen Mirren is going to be utterly formidable.  Only 3 months to the DVD release.

I always suspected that I would have to source the second film on DVD, given that it was a re-release of a 1948 black and white movie staring Joan Fontaine.  Letter from an Unknown Woman  is a film based on Stefan Zweig’s novella of the same name.  I don’t know what triggered the 2010 rerelease.  The film has been preserved in the US National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and the reviews from February of this year are glowing.  It’s obvious from the film plot summary that while it retains many details from Zweig’s novella, a lot has been added. 

I’m not at all precious about changes being made  – as long as the finished piece remains true to the spirit of the original.  Extending a 44 page novella into a full-length film is a creative act in itself and I’m itching to see it.  So are many people because there is a long queue for a DVD rental ….

While I’m waiting, perhaps you’d like to read the novella for yourself.  Online here or in the recent Pushkin Press Selected Stories volume.  I’m having a blast reading this.  More on that later in the week.  For now though,  the scoresheet  in the Read the Book, See the Movie challenge remains at Read 2, Seen 0.  

Reading scores:

The Last Station – Jay Parini

Letter from an Unknown Woman – Stefan Zweig