Thursday, May 22, 2008

Arthur Schnitzler Enthusiasm

There is an exhibit on for view in London of fin-de-siecle Viennese writer Arthur Schnitzler's manuscripts. There is a brief article in The Independent and also a press release. Links via complete review.

I had wanted to write in detail about his story Traumnovelle ("Dream Story") and why I dislike Eyes Wide Shut, its film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick but never got around to doing it. One of these days when I get a chance to see it again I will do that. One of his plays La Ronde was made into a film by Max Ophuls too, which I haven't seen. Schnitzler is quite undeservedly obscure - Fraulein Else and Lieutenant Gustl are both amazing pieces of work. Both are early examples of stories written in the style of an unbroken interior monologue. In the first a young girl has a nervous breakdown when she is asked by her parents to please an old man which will save her family from financial ruin. In the other a young lieutenant in the Austrian army grapples with suicidal thoughts after a "dishonourable" incident. Both are quite short but dark and powerful.


Puccinio said...

''Eyes Wide Shut'' is not without interest, in my opinion. It's a failure but a fascinating one. Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack are great. Tom Cruise is cast appropriately as a dull, un-sexy husband. My main issues with the film is that it's too literal. It should have been more dream-like than it already is. And really there was no need for the orgy scene.

Frederic Raphael, the screenwriter said that the original plan was to do the orgy like in ''Persona'' but Kubrick went ahead and shot one. The film was publicized as a sex film you know. Still there are moments when Kubrick is able to touch on what he's dealing with profoundly and clearly.

But it doesn't belong within a mile of the sublime ''La Ronde'' by Ophuls. Ophuls also adapted ''Liebelei'' in the 30's based on a Schintzler play or novel. ''La Ronde'' was one of the most influential films of it's day, an international success with a stellar cast that includes Simone Signoret and Anton Walbrook.

Alok said...

It is definitely a very interesting film but ultimately it is a failure. I love films which mix together different tones and moods so that in a scene you don't know whether to laugh, feel sad, be aroused or be shocked... there are lots of films which do this (Bunuel was a master of this for example) but here it feels more a result of indecision and confusion on writer-director's part. Kubrick reportedly wanted to film it as a comedy. He had even thought of casting Steve Martin in the main role. The original story however is a fairly earnest piece of classic Viennese Freudiana. It actually reflects in the actors too. Sydney Pollack seems to be having fun playing his ridiculous aging womaniser while Cruise and Kidman are so earnest that it becomes funny in an unintentional way. While Kidman has done lots of great roles in recent years what the story (and Kubrick) demanded of her and Cruise in this film was way beyond their talents. Some of those monologues are dream acting roles but she comes across as trying so hard and so self-conscious that it doesn't work at all. I also agree about the dream-logic aspect of the story. Again there was same confusion... there were a few scenes which were absurd and absurdly funny in a dreamy way but overall Kubrick played it as a straight drama. If I remember correctly in the last scene the Sydney Pollack character "explains" everything that happened thus putting the lid back on all the dream interpretation aspect of the story. I don't think Kubrick was really temperamentally suited enough to do justice to the freudian aspects of the story... I just wish David Lynch could have made a film out of it - another spin on Lost Highway!

Anonymous said...

If any of you are interested in reading more about Kubrick/Schnitzler, check out this link:

"In his recent memoir, Eyes Wide Open, Frederick Raphael recounts how his editor, Stanley Baron, and the director, Stanley Donen, both correctly guessed the source material after learning that Raphael had been hired to write for Kubrick. Donen, according to Raphael, "knew that Kubrick had been trying to 'lick' the Schnitzler" since at least 1972."

XD - I love that!

Puccinio said...

I don't think David Lynch could do it. He's not a mature enough director for it. Manoel de Oliveira pushing 100 this year could have made it. Or Bertollucci could have done it. It would have gotten him out of his rut for sure. Even Roman Polanski.

Madhuri said...

I was planning to comment on this one earlier, but the long comment got lost in a stupid network failure. I personally quite liked the movie, though as Puccinio puts it, it was too literal and there was no need for the orgy scene. But apart from that, I think the idea of infidelity in dreams was well-portrayed. Nicole Kidman, with her reserve and boredom was perfect. The exaggerated drama which played in slow shots also was impressive. Although there were times when the pace tested patience.
I have not read the original story, however, on the theme of infidelity, I love Camus story called The Adulterous Woman. Also Kundera's Identity.