15 December 2003 | khatcher-2
Worthy tribute to Conrad's writing and philosophy
Konrad Korzeniowski at age 15 ran away from his native Poland to seek fortune in the world - the same as Yanko Gooral in this film - and fetched up at Marseilles. There he signed on as crewman on a merchant vessel and spent the next 15 years sailing the seven seas. At 30 years of age he landed in London and decided to settle. He married and began writing novels - in English. Now, what kind of English he learnt aboard merchant sailing ships late in the 19th Century might well be imagined: Greeks, Italians, Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Galicians.........
However, his novels are among the greatest literary achievements in literature in the English language. His first novel near 1900, but as he had not been schooled in the Victorian style, his narrative was entirely different. Basing himself on his own experiences roaming the wild and wide seas, where he even went through a shipwreck, his novels were on the one hand resounding novels of adventure, if not of the swashbuckler type, but backed up by that deeply rooted Russian philosophical sense of feelings and human emotions. His novels are not simply `yarns' as such; nor are they simply romantic `nouvelles'; nor are they simply autobiographical; they are combination of all these, and much more. Today, among the best pieces of literature ever written in English, we have `Lord Jim' and `Nostromo', two gigantic tales with superb human and humane backgrounds.
Simply watching a film based on a Joseph Conrad novel is not enough to reveal all the invisible, profound thoughts, the real human philosophy of life, how humans think and react under different situations. To really understand this author it is imperative that you slowly read and digest his works. Perhaps you should start with `Almayer's Folly' before embarking on the two previously mentioned masterpieces.
However, `Swept from the Sea', based on his story `Amy Foster' does wonderfully well in not only showing the story, but also giving us a glimpse into the powerful thinking of Joseph Conrad. This point was evidently on Ms. Beeban Kidron's mind when she set out on making this film. Ably helped by her cast, the result is pretty good, even more than good. Vincent Perez is not bad, even quite good at times; Rachel Weisz has made the job of her life in a highly concentrated reading, and the supporting cast like Ian McKellar and Kathy Bates is top-notch stuff. The filming sequences on the Cornish coast in the deep south west of England, especially with the fog curling round the forelands and creeping up the inlets and into the harbours, or in the pouring rain, gives excellent ambientation to the telling of the story. John Barry's musical apportation was the same as always, such that if I had closed my eyes I might well have been watching `Dances With Wolves' (qv); however it fitted in with the proceedings and the photography well enough.
Filmed on the wild coastline of Cornwall, south-west England, now tamed by the August hordes of campers and footpathers, carvanners and English language learners; IMDb lists Pentire Point on the northern coastline, but I cannot help thinking that I saw some village streets such as in Mullion, Coverack or even Mousehole (pronounced "muzzle") on the south coast of that beautiful holidaying area of England. The famous author John Le Carré also has his home down there.
This is a film worth seeing, even for the most pedantic and enthusiastic readers of Conrad's novels such as I, precisely because I think Conrad himself would have been quite pleased with Ms. Kidron's work, with Tim Willocks' very correct adaptation for the screen.
But whatever happens, do not pass up reading and seeing Conrad's Masterpiece, converted into a masterpiece for TV "Nostromo" (1996) (mini) (qv).