I've been a devoted Proustophile since 1994. It began--this obsession with oplulent surroundings described in spindly sentances of unearthly metaphoric beauty--as a competition between a friend of mine and myself as to who could finish the book first. (He won, incidentally, but by the end we had given up caring and were calling each other daily with reports of sheer beauty: inevitably, I, reading about 300 pages behind him, would bring up something he did not even remember. Such is the nature of the Proust-verse.) I became totally sick with it, neglecting everything I could get away with neglecting to do hours of dedicated poring. I stayed up all night more than a few times at a Carrow's restraunt, grey volume in hand, reading, living, falling in love with each monstrous word. (I went to school in Southern Calfornia, which lacked the opulent cafes replete with fainting couches I wished for as I read these volumes, so we were stuck with Denny's--or worse.)
Perhaps this is why, for my money, I have yet to encounter a single persuasive adaptation. Tonight I again watched Volker Schloendorff's plush Swann in Love with Jeremy Irons and the translucently beautiful Ornella Muti. It should work: the pacing is elegant, the mood captivating, the decor beyond reproach, the people pretty, the mood simply dripping with sinful sex--even the music, by Hans Werner Henze (who tries desperately to enchant us with a cheekily modernist, fictionalized"little phrase" of M. de Venteuil, though many believe that sound must have been closer to Cesar Franck) is rapturous and strange. So why does it not work? Why does no adaptation work? Not this one, not Chantal Akerman's La Captive (a sexy updating of book five) and especially not Ricky Ian Gordon's My Life With Albertine, a feaux-Frenchy musical (read: accordions)? The answer is simple: some things are meant to be text only, and this is one of them. I dread most of all the opera of any part of La Recherche fo for the simple reason that, like Finnegan's Wake, The Making of Americans, The Man Without Qualities, The Sleepwalkers and Paradise Lost, it is already being sung on its pages, projected onto our own screens. It does not defy adaptation; it is, in an of itself, already atapted from within. Any other takes play at it, but can never capture--like trying to make a really effective music video for a Beethoven symphony.
There is no "peg" to this post, but I wonder if there are brilliant and satisfying adaptations lurking about that I've simply never come accross. Perhaps today, in some part of the world, there is being born at this very moment a soul who can, eventually, bring these luminous pages (brilliant even in translation, though that might be due to the genius of Moncrieff) to the screen with the even-handed overindulgence or the shocking propriety crossed with down-dirty prurience needed to effectively carry it off, but until then, I will stick to the reading--and re-reading.
Any thoughts from the void?