13 February 2004 | scharnbergmax-se
Dostoyevsky Reduced to a Kind of 'Classics Illustrated'
I am not going to present a conventional rejection, nor to justify such a rejection from a conventional perspective. Apart from people who have a professional relation to such subjects, rather few persons are as familiar with different philosophical schools and different forms of fictional literature. But I do not think that Dostoyevsky is more than a middle-sized writer: far from poor but also far from good. Perhaps a little better than Walter Scott. And I am unable to perceive any philosophy in his writings. Nor have I learned much from texts aimed at explaining his philosophy. Consequently, it would be alien to my thinking to reproach Sanders's movie for having neglected 'the philosophy' of the novel. Nevertheless, I think that Denis Sanders has reduced 'Crime and Punishment' to a kind of 'Classics Illustrated'. A boy murders an old pawnbroker woman. This is the kind of events we may read about in the newspapers or watch on television, and the same thing is true of what follows: the boy eventually gets of a nervous breakdown because of his crime. He goes to the police and confesses, and even hands over hard evidence. - However much I think that Dostoyevsky is overrated, his novel contains SOMETHING more than just mass media sensations, but Sanders's movie does not (apart from one scene). The boy's writings about super-humans with the right to discard normal moral rules reminds me foremost of a newspaper columnist trying to catch the attention of bored readers by means of funny paradoxes. - - - But there is one scene that moved me very deeply; perhaps mostly so because of its very quiet nature. Sometimes (though not always) it is a wise rule that emotions should be felt by the spectators, not exhibited by the actors. There is nothing in the girl's appearance or behaviour that reveals her profession. But one night when she goes past a cheap café, she sees the boy in there, and goes to him. She tells him, 'I go out with men. Many men.' - This is a really great scene, and it must be regretted that I do not have the proper competence for describing why it is so. After some 40 years I still would like to see this scene again. I have no wish to see any other part of the movie again.