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  • Much criticism is possible for this one, see the other reviews. I agree with them , partially, but am no expert on scripts, etc. I will summarize the positive aspects. This is a "period piece"as so many have been made, especially in Europe. (Italy , France). As such, not much wrong with it. Being based on an 18th century novel by the famous J.W. Goethe, of course in mentality it is far away from our present times. Young people, only familiar with modern consumer cinema (Hollywood et al.) will be apalled by this kind of movie. But me, very used to, and grown up with the cinema of the likes of Luchino Visconti, were not surprised with child drowning, hysterical women, "strange relationships". It partly reminded me of L'Innocente by Visconti. Those were different times! No, I loved it, good story, great acting, especially my favorite Isabelle Huppert, good locations, a nice film.

    I don't care about state subsidies or whatever, as long as it results in some movie. Culture has to be subsidized anyway, the (mass) market mechanism, under capitalist relations, cannot supply it.
  • Reviewers seem to have struggled with this dramatisation of a sometimes quite modern German novel that came out in 1809, the action being moved from Saxony to a gloriously picturesque Tuscany. I think the problems start with the book, where you have to decide for yourself how serious it is meant to be.

    Is the author moving his characters around the chessboard for fun, so we can laugh at their foibles, or is he in deadly earnest about the destructive effects of our strongest emotions? Or should we see a bit of both, enjoying some of the comedy in the initial conflicts of love and duty (to name just two) but deeply sorry at the end over lives lost or blighted? It is a complex work of many layers, too many to discuss here.

    A film can only show elements of the story and has to leave out much. Rightly, in my view, it is centred on the basic equation of the middle- aged couple A and B inviting into their quiet lives the unmarried C and D. Sticking to the human trajectory, that goes from innocent love through forbidden love to tragic deaths, it can only hint at or has to ignore many other aspects of the novel: social, cultural, scientific, religious and philosophical.

    Perhaps this is why some viewers have not felt satisfied? Is there an appetite for doomed love affairs among rich people in Europe two hundred years ago? I suggest that there will always be if, like this one, they are well told, well cast and well shot (even though the baby's red wig was a bit over the top!).
  • Marat-227 July 1999
    Taviani brothers are extremely talented filmmakers, and every movie they make is worth seeing. "Elective affinities" is a wonderful film. Based on a novel by Goethe it shows us how human lives are unable to match mathematic formulas. Tavianis direct the film with amazing simplicity and preciseness, with very few flaws. It is unlike their Italian films, but the art of those wonderful brothers is breathtaking. My Grade: **** 1/2 (out of *****)
  • DeeNine-211 February 2001
    I was going to write a review of this, but there is little I can add to Peter Shelley's very perceptive review (at Amazon's video store). I will relate my experience with the video. I chose it more or less at random, as I sometimes do (in this way I try to extent my horizons, or at least to come face to face with something different), but partially because it starred French actress Isabelle Huppert, whose work I admire. As I shifted in my seat through the languid development, I thought how odd and how out of sync with a modern story this is! Strangely coy and even "Victorian" for an Italian movie! After some time it occurred to me that the only explanation is that it was adapted from an eighteenth century novel! For some reason The Sorrows of Young Werther came to mind. When I discovered that Elective Affinities was indeed based on a novel by Goethe, I was very pleased with myself until I noticed on the video jacket a reference to Goethe that I must have read and forgotten.

    Let me quote a passage from Goethe's novel, Elective Affinities (1808) found in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations that goes a long ways toward explaining why Carlotta (Huppert) does not immediately divorce her cheating husband and take up with the dashing architect: "The sum which two married people owe to one another defies calculation. It is an infinite debt, which can only be discharged through all eternity." Carlotta represents Goethe's point of view.

    I would also like to note that this is not Huppert at her best. She is too much long of face, and that sly cynicism of hers is a little too much on display. Additionally (I guess I can't help but review this a little!) the self-satisfied privilege of the upper classes depicted here allows one to understand the reasons for the revolutions that would again and again threaten the old order in Europe throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.

    (Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
  • What were the Taviani's doing in the Summer of 1996? Dozing off with a glass of Chianti Classico and a copy of Lucio Gaudino's "Adelaide" on a portable Video Recorder to 'inspire' them on the shoot of this drab, lifeless,un-inspired period piece? "Adelaide" was shot 5 years earlier, on a shoestring (with breadcrumbs from the Italian State Film Funds) and was directed by a Mr. Nobody. It too was inspired by a period Novel, not Goethe, but a 'minor' French Novelist, I believe. Goethe wouldn't 'turn in his grave' over the Taviani's treatment to his masterpiece... Yes he WOULD turn over and go to sleep, maybe muttering a German phrase of disgust. Darlings of the institutions, it appears the Taviani's will continue to find funds for such lame efforts in the coffers of Italy's political parties. The film is a 'rip off'. It's French protagonist,( usually riveting), is strangely absent, a very pale copy of Assumpta Serna, "Adelaide"'s mesmerizing ageing beauty with a caustic brilliance. Gaudino's small jewel of a film is beautifully shot, well acted, and respects the 'feel' of the epoch. Anyone attracted to such material, (and deluded by the Taviani mess) should take the time, and trouble to track down 'the real Mc Coy! Buona Visione!
  • In the Eighteenth Century, in Italy, the Countess Carlotta (Isabelle Huppert) meets occasionally the Baron Eduardo (Jean-Hughes Anglad). They has a crush for each other in the past, when they were young, and they decide to get married very soon. One year after, Eduardo decides to invite his friend, the architect Ottone (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) to stay with them and help them to improve their property. Then, Carlotta decides to invite her goddaughter Ottilia (Marie Gillain) to stay also with them to make company to Ottone. Carlotta feels attracted by Ottone, and Eduardo falls in love with Ottilia. These attractions lead the four central characters to an affair with tragic consequences. This romance is very strange. It is about infidelity, in a very different world in Italy in the 18th Century . Although those things of love are very unpredictable, it sounds very strange that a couple like Eduardo and Carlotta, newlywed and in love for each other, have this type of affair proposed in the film. I myself have not bought the story. The direction and performances are impeccable, but the story has not convinced me. My vote is seven.

    Title (Brazil): `As Afinidades Eletivas' (`The Elective Affinities')
  • 'Eeny, meeny, miny, moe is a children's counting rhyme, used to select "it" for games and similar purposes.' Writers/Directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have reduced Johann Wolfgang Goethe novel "Die Wahlverwandtschaften" into a somewhat stilted, pseudo-intellectual game and renamed it "Le affinit√† elettive" (or Elective Affinities). The result if a stodgy and at times only semi-interesting twist on love affairs gone awry.

    In the 18th century Countess Carlotta (Isabelle Hupert) encounters her love of 20 years ago, one Baron Eduardo (Jean-Hugues Anglade). They reform their affinity and marry. One year later we find them happily at home in the Baron's Tuscan villa, a home the Baron adores for its geometric beauty (science) and Carlotta loves for its artistic aura (art). Eduardo wants to complete the buildings on their vast land holdings in Tuscany and convinces Carlotta to allow him to invite a famous architect Ottone (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), long a cherished childhood friend, to move in with them to complete the architectural possibilities the site offers. Carlotta has premonitions of bad omens and decides to invite her somewhat neurotic, asocial goddaughter Ottilia (Marie Gillain) to move in with the growing household and to be company to Ottone. After endless talking sprees there develops an affinity between Carlotta and Ottone and an equally strong one between Eduardo and Ottilia. Clandestine encounters become public when Carlotta discovers she is pregnant, the baby is born, looking very much like Ottone!, and a tragedy occurs when Ottilia is caring for the baby: the baby drowns. Ottilia return to her neurotic shell of isolation, the affairs are discovered and tragedies continue. There really is no ending to the story: it just stops.

    For those of us who admire the consistently fine work by actress Isabelle Huppert this film is a draw. But sadly even the gifted Huppert (with her French spoken lines, along with the other two French actors, annoyingly dubbed into Italian) is unable to make us care for anything or anyone in this experiment of love. But perhaps that is more the fault of Goethe: 'Die Wahlverwandtschaften (also translated under the title Kindred by Choice) is the third novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1809. The title is taken from a scientific term once used to describe the tendency of chemical species to combine with certain substances or species in preference to others. The novel is based on the metaphor of human passions being governed or regulated by the laws of chemical affinity, and examines whether or not the science and laws of chemistry undermine or uphold the institution of marriage, as well as other human social relations.' Like the metaphor on which this film is based this is a laboratory experiment rather than a dissection of love gone awry.

    Grady Harp
  • "Elective Affinities," even though it stars one of my favorite actresses, Isabelle Huppert, is a terrible film. Why? The secenario is so routine that they even use the equation-symbol (i.e. A is attracted to B, while C is attracted to D., etc.) to prophesize what is about to occur, and (viola!) it does just that. A woman (I.H.) engages her lover of 20 years ago and they become married (I think that very day). They setttle in on his estate and then the husband's friend arrives for a visit, at almost the same time the women's nubile daughter arrives from college. Can you guess the rest? It's a spaghetti romance; shame on Isabelle Huppert for this one.