Captain Corelli's Mandolin

John Madden

BY Carol HarrisonPublished Nov 17, 2016

"Captain Corelli's Mandolin" is what happens when Harlequin Romance pairs up with the Greek Board of Tourism and makes a war movie.

Loosely based on the book by British author Louis de Bernieres, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia in 1940 prior to Mussolini's invasion of Greece. In these early days of the Second World War, Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) is learning the healing arts from her father, Dr. Iannis (John Hurt). Everything is idyllic in this small village including her betrothal to Mandras (Christian Bale). Then, the war hits home and all the young, healthy and patriotic men leave to fight the Italians in Albania. This leaves Mandras's beloved penning letters to him. Meanwhile, a battalion of harmonising Italians invade the island causing dissention among the inhabitants. The personable Captain Antonio Corelli (Nicolas Cage) is billeted with the good doctor. When Mandras returns battered and bruised, the love triangle is fully formed and sides are taken.

As awful as this term is, this is a definitive "chick flick." It's fully romantic and implausible taking what is a lengthy epic story and condensing it to a lush heart thumping tale of love. How can you not fall in love with the bluer than blue water, the cloudless skies, the pastoral meadows, the sunny surroundings? This is idyllic and peace loving. Everyone gets along and no one seems to work. The young people are beautiful and the elders are wise and funny. They can't even help but love the boisterous Italians. With all opera singing, wine drinking, and love making, you forget that there's a nasty war waging across the sea. In fact, the only reminder is the stern Nazi German Captain Gunter Weber (David Morrissey) and even after a seconds-long debate about the "master race" everyone learns to get along. The only tension we feel is that between Corelli and Pelagia, but it's the good kind of tension you feel at the first blush of love.

It's hard to really dislike this film since it just looks lovely. John Madden also directed the Oscar-winning "Shakespeare In Love" and it shares the similar look and feel. I just got the feeling something was missing from "Captain Corelli's Mandolin." As with romance novels, the suspension of disbelief is integral to its plausibility. Common sense and human foibles cannot factor into the plot. Prejudice and sexism do not disfigure destiny and love conquers all. The twist comes when the Germans invade. But even the battle scenes are somehow veiled with an idealistic sheen. Nicolas Cage is the true romantic hero as he stands out to defend his men.

In times of economic uncertainty, filmmakers often wax nostalgic on a past that was hardly glamorous as it does with this film and "Pearl Harbor." Inexhaustible headlines shooting down our media made heroes have left many cynical and depressed. Hollywood has again taken up the task of lifting our spirits and make us believe in hope again – hope of a better tomorrow, hope that love exists, and that we can all bask in it. And in turn, the industry hopes that the current downward trend of theatre attendance will reverse itself and Hollywood can continue to make loads of dough on our emotional needs.

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