5 May 2012 | hte-trasme
Far from being king of movies
I watched this film adaptation shortly after reading the Vladimir Nabokov novel on which it's based. I realize that doesn't necessarily do a film many favors in terms of predisposing one towards it, but even with that taken into account I don't think the film of "King, Queen, Knave" fares very well.
There would be no way really to reproduce that wonderful texture of the prose work, but in the adaptation somebody also seems to have systematically extracted all characterization and subtlety, leaving only a bare outline events. Slapstick comedy is played up but not timed well, so characters stumble over each other time after time in sequences that last too long.
Events are carried over in the writing of the adaptation with their significance stripped away, so that we seem to be hearing about a chauffeur dying for no narrative reason. Martha says she's surprised Frank (who in print was Franz) hasn't come round in three days, when moments earlier he was agonizing over a reason to visit for the first time.
The dichotomy between aggressively conventional Martha and the whimsical, creative Dreyer - central in how I read the book - falls by the wayside. Dreyer (who was Kurt and is now Charles) is less a curious, joking sort than a driven, slightly imperious executive type. David Niven gives a good, relaxed performance, but, with one scene of practical joking left in and others of business acumen played up, the character he's playing doesn't feel complete.
Gina Lollobrigida is a talented, magnetic personality and it's always a pleasure to watch her, in visual and acting terms. Here, though, she is given nothing more to do than be seductive and ruthless. She does it well, but it's a limited role. John Moulder-Brown grossly overplays Frank as so ineffectual that he's often almost incapable for speaking. It reaches the point of being not only ineffective but simply irritating to watch. Similarly Mario Adorf's interpretation of the inventor Ritter seems to be so full of broad strokes and "comedy" faces that it becomes an unfunny distraction.
There are a number of a sequences where dream images break into the narrative, but these clatter on so unsubtly that their surrealism becomes a puzzling distraction rather than an explication of the narrative.
"King, Queen, Knave" leaves logic, character, and atmosphere behind to play up comedy -- without getting any laughs. The best that can be said is that it's nice to watch Lollobrigida and Niven enjoying themselves in some pleasant scenery. On the whole, it;s not worth bothering.