I try not to be disappointed when I watch movies based on books I enjoyed. Inevitably actors don’t look like the descriptions of their characters, and plots must to be altered to fit a different medium. The best I can hope for is that the movie captures the spirit of the book. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin tries hard but loses too much in translation.
The movie is set on the Greek island of Cephallonia during World War II. An easygoing Italian army unit has come to occupy the island and Captain Corelli (Nicholas Cage) is boarded at the home of Dr. Iannis (John Hurt) and his lovely daughter Pelagia (Penelope Cruz). Pelagia is at first resentful of the enemy’s presence in her home, especially while her fiancée is away fighting the Italians. But Corelli is a gentle soul — he’d rather play his mandolin than fight Greeks — and slowly the two find themselves falling in love.
R for violence, sex, language
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin has some good moments: a multi-national dance in the village square, a battle where the Italians join Greek partisans against the Germans. But having read the book, the gaping holes in the story were all too obvious to me. Fewer characters and events are fleshed-out and this condensation causes the movie to lose the emotional intensity and epic feel of the book. Watching Mandolin isn’t a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon, but you might get more out of the book.