Jan 9, 2011

Old movies vs. Remakes: The Painted Veil

Greta Garbo & Herbert Marshall | Naomi Watts & Edward Norton

Basic Story: A couple marries, but she’s not in love and deceives her husband. He’s a bacteriologist so they travel to China to help to fight an epidemic. There, they will have to face the serious problems in their relationship. Based on a novel by  W. Somerset Maugham. There's another version starring Eleanor Parker that I haven't seen. 

Face to face:

Development of the story: The new version is way better in this aspect. It’s longer, but never boring. This allows it to show gradually the many stages in the relationship of the couple; something that in my opinion the older version doesn't achieve. The older version makes the love triangle something primordial; while the second only shows it as a reflection of the state of the relationship and the cause of the couple’s departure to a more dangerous town. Plus, there are more thrilling scenes in the new movie and you really get the idea of the horrible epidemic the doctor is facing.

Performances: Both films have fine actors, the new version has Edward Norton and Naomi Watts; Greta Garbo and Herbert Marshall (and George Brent) play the leads in the older version. The story required the actors to be distant at the beginning and then, after facing difficulties together and start to admire the strengths of the other, finally show their warmth and open up.
Edward and Naomi had a better developed (and uncensored) script, so they could achieve a more emotional performance. Herbert seemed to be distant (and boring) the whole movie and overall he and Garbo didn't show the great disconnection the couple has at the beginning.
On an aside note, it’s interesting to notice that the actor chosen for the role of the coward lover in the last movie, Liev Schreiber, looks very much like George Brent.

Other aspects: The new version has a simply marvelous score by Alexandre Desplat (the main theme has stuck in my head for years), plus gorgeous locations.

And the winner is... The new version, although I wouldn’t give the older one such low ratings as Imdb’s users.

 Click to watch the winner film in Youtube.

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