Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Night train to Lisbon" - an inner journey

Pascal mercier's brilliant novel 2004 "Night train to Lisbon" is set during the right wing nationalist regime in Portugal between 1932 to 1968; headed by Salazar - the controversial but powerful prime minister. It is a beautiful story of a young aristocratic doctor who joins the resistance against the dictatorial rule of Salazar. The novel begins with a Swiss professor's search for Amadeus de Prado (the young Doctor), whose short book of poems falls into his hands by accident. The search takes the professor to Lisbon almost on instinct and a strange love for its poetry;- and there, slowly and patiently, he touches the lives of all those people who were intimate with Amadeus and the different ways in which the political unrest in the country have shaped their individual destinies. The enigmatic portrait of Amadeus's tortured life, pulled in different directions by his deep mystical propensities, his profession, his love, his friendship, his distaste of the regime ; and above all the frailty of his body , that is raked by a debilitating disease - is characterized wonderfully with a great deal of sensitivity by Pascal Mercier. The translation is fresh and has a haunting charm to it. The portrait of Lisbon and its narrow alleys, with family owned shops ,and a laid back culture that is not yet corrupted by materialistic overtures blends well with the story and accentuates the depth of its characters.

The 2013 adaptation of this book features the talented and seasoned Jeremy irons playing the role of the professor whose search for Amadeus is the crux of the story. The movie stays true to the spirit of the book. Bille August,, the director has done a reasonably good job in developing his characters with conviction , finesse and a keen understanding of context. The vitality of relationships, the uncertainties of life in a vacillating and smothering political regime , the baffling contradictions in the human breast, the clash of individual freedom within a tyrannical state : are all captured with a vividness that is appreciable. Amadeus's poetic musings rendered in the deep throated voice of Jeremy irons provides a mystic background to the entire drama; and at the end of it, there is a wholesomeness to the film that justifies the story and the book...

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