CULTURE

Film underlines magic of novel

In an age when the distinction between films and the books they are based on becomes so blurred that most cinemagoers are not aware of the literary origins of the movie they are watching, a gentle reminder about the value of some novels would not go amiss. «Atonement,» which opened in Greek cinemas last week and stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy has been a critical and commercial success, as was the book by Ian McEwan on which it is based. It is no coincidence that director Joe Wright threw out the first version of the screenplay he was given and insisted that the film follow the content of McEwan’s novel much more faithfully. «Atonement,» the book, is an outstanding piece of writing by one of the finest English writers of the late 20th and early 21st century. In this case English is used in the geographical rather than linguistic sense because McEwan’s writing is very much of England and about England. In fact, acclaimed American author John Updike said that «Atonement» was «a staggering book – something no American could have published.» This is not to say that McEwan’s writing is not accessible to all. As only the most skilled authors manage, he strikes a perfect balance between the elements of his writing. The themes and scope of his books are both sweeping and personal. His characters have enough dimensions to yank the reader into their world. McEwan’s language is rich, but rather than make the reader feel like they are wading through treacle, his sentences flow and undulate like a crystal-clear babbling brook. Whether «Atonement» is McEwan’s finest work so far is open to debate as he has penned a number of masterpieces that range widely in subject matter. «Atonement» revolves around the lives of three main characters, 13-year-old Briony Tallis, her older sister Cecilia and childhood friend Robbie Turner. Briony is completely thrown when she witnesses blossoming love between Cecilia and Robbie. Her reaction changes the course of the lives of all three characters. Much of the remainder of the book is dedicated to Briony attempting to atone for her mistake, or crime. The book’s conclusion is an eloquent statement on the power of imagination and authorship as well as on the human desire for forgiveness and making amends. At the same time, McEwan gives us a sumptuous look at Britain, and its class divisions, in the uneasy calm before the Second World War and in the grips of tumult during the conflict. Writers of McEwan’s ability are a rare commodity. Decent films based on successful books are equally hard to come by. Cinema audiences and readers have been blessed with a couple of gems and this is a great opportunity for them to unearth the other priceless contributions that Ian McEwan has made to English literature or face having to atone for it in the future. [email protected]