Silas Marner: The Weaver of Ravenloe. Novel by George Eliot (1861).
Silas Marner. Adaptation by BBC (1985).
George Eliot: A Scandalous Life. Directed by Mary Downes (2002).
A Simple Twist of Fate. Written by Steve Martin, directed by Gillies MacKinnon (1994).
Black Snake Moan. Written and directed by Craig Brewer (2007).
Bangaru Papa (Golden Baby). Written and directed by B. N. Reddi (1954).
A Lit-Flick Combo is any combination of books and movies around a single theme. My first real lit-flick combo was the Wizard of Oz. Bill and I (re-)watched the movie, and read the first few novels in the original L. Frank Baum series (which are kind of trippy — there’s a boy who learns he’s really a princess in disguise!). We even watched the Michael Jackson remake, The Wiz. The Gregory Maguire novels were not yet out then, but I have now read them all, as addenda to my combo.
My most recently completed combo revolves around George Eliot’s novel Silas Marner.
Years ago I saw A Simple Twist of Fate on cable. The end of the movie included a reference that it was based on Silas Marner, by George Eliot. I made a mental note to read the book when I had the time.
I can’t explain why it took me 15 years to get around to reading it, but I finally tackled Silas Marner this year. Silas starts his life over practicing a new craft in a strange town after a terrible betrayal. He keeps to himself and rarely mixes with townspeople, but prefers instead to practice his craft and count his gold. Soon after Silas’s gold is stolen, an orphaned child comes into his life, forever changing his perspective. Eliot has a devastating facility for describing small town life: “The inhabitants of Raveloe were not severely regular in their church-going, and perhaps there was hardly a person in the parish who would not have held that to go to church every Sunday in the calendar would have shown a greedy desire to stand well with Heaven, and get an undue advantage over their neighbours.” It is Eliot’s portrayal of the community that brings the novel alive.
Silas Marner is a departure from the 19th century novels most of us have come to expect. The rewards are more subtle than those derived from a long pas-de-deux on the part of a clever couple who are meant for each other. Instead it considers the questions of who can be a parent, how one establishes membership in a community, and what are the real wages of sin.
Once I finished the book, I watched the BBC adaptation, with Ben Kingsley in the title role. As with most BBC adaptations, this one hews very closely to the novel. Differences consist mostly of details and characters left out in the interest of narrative expediency. It serves as a nice visualization of the novel. The DVD includes a fabulous bio of George Eliot, with lots of period recreation. From it I learned that Mary Anne Evans, who took the name George Eliot as her pseudonym, was very unattractive, very intelligent, and very prone to inappropriate relationships with men.
Sunday I finally re-watched a Simple Twist of Fate. It’s a modern re-interpretation of the original novel. The story has moved from England to Virginia, and Silas the weaver has become Michael the carpenter. But the main arc of the story remains the same. Although I don’t remember the movie showing in theaters, it has many recognizable performers: Steve Martin (of course), Gabriel Byrne, Laura Linney, Catherine O’Hara, Steven Baldwin. Anne Heche even has a brief uncredited role. Steve Martin occasionally allows his goofiness to shine through and brighten up the somber character of Silas Marner. Oddly, since Martin has been snow-capped for as long as I can remember, he dyed his hair for the film. The Irish Gabriel Byrne shows off an accent that hales from far south of Virginia horse country. But that’s ok, since his favorite pastime is playing polo, and not steeplechase, the more traditional Virginia horse hobby. In all, the movie comes out a little flat.
In reviewing Wikipedia’s Silas Marner entry, I discovered that Black Snake Moan is loosely based on Silas Marner. So that chain around Cristina Ricci’s waist that we saw in all the trailers is a re-interpretation of the ribbon Silas tied to the toddler Eppie to keep her out of trouble! I’ve added it to my Netflix list, although I’m concerned it may be too rough for my taste. There’s also a 1954 Indian film, which I would love to see because I love Indian movies. But Netflix does not list it.