21 July 2004 | cliveowensucks
"We are the world, Mr Heyst, come to pay you a visit."
I love Joseph Conrad but the films never seem to work. "The Duellists" was too thin, "The Secret Agent" terrible. "Lord Jim"s the best of a bad bunch so far.
This doesn't up the score much, but it's an honest try. The locations are good and it has the feel of the time and place. Casting is arse over face, with pudgy Sam Neill as the novel's skeletal Mr Jones (hammy, mannered, ineffective) and Willem Dafoe as the novel's pudgy Heyst (very good indeed). Irene Jacob's a blank sheet, but at least she's better here than in "U.S. Marshalls." Best of the bunch is Rufus Sewell, who has Jones' 'private secretary' to perfection, and he's an actor I've no time for in anything else.
Biggest drawback is the narration. Bill Patterson may be great, but he barely keeps his trap shut for more than two minutes. He's always telling us back story, what Heyst thinks, what Schomberg thinks. It's as if Mark Peploe can't let go of the novel or as if the producers didn't think the audience would get it. Considering it sat on the shelf for years, probably the last.
The end is under effective because you never get any feel that the lovers bring each other to life. Dafoe does well, but Jacob is like Isabelle Adjani at her weakest here, doing too little. Good stuff along the way, and Neill does redeem himself with the great line "We are the world, Mr Heyst, come to pay you a visit." Now that's Conrad.