Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Oxford Murders - a review

A film that turns out more elitist in language than its original book version is quite a rare feat

As big screen readaptations go, comparisons with the original version (in this case Guillermo Martinez's award-winning novel) are never too kind. The Oxford Murders was doomed from the start. If the book version was already blighted by sections that are incomprehensible for all but PhD students of Abstract Logic and Mega Philosophy, Alex de la Iglesia's film version will simply make that DVD eject button too tempting to resist.

And it's a pity. Because the Oxford Murders carries all the premises for a gripping tale of mystery and creepy symbolism. No sooner has young American (Argentinian, in the original version) mathematician Martin (Elijah Wood) arrived in Oxford that his elderly landlady is found murdered in her wheelchair.
The only clues are a cryptic message and a circle scrabbled next to it. It's the door to a fascinating conundrum that involves respected academic Arthur Seldom (John Hurt) and a couple of ladies who are quite eager to inspect Elijah Wood's particulars. Perhaps they were big Frodo fans to begin with. We'll never know.

Yet, a film that turns out more elitist in language than its original book version is quite a rare feat. There are, for want of a better expression, visual references here. Yet, the viewer's drowns in a vortex of Heidleberg's Principle, Fibonacci series, Godel's Axiom, Whatsit Theorem, ThingyBob Maxim - stuff you'd only grasp if you've studied the stuff.

If that wasn't enough to get on your nerves, here comes the acting i.e. the nail in the coffin. Deliberate though it may be, the Thespian, uber-hammed-up nature of the dialogue is totally out of place. In the book Arthur Seldom is more subdued and less of a megalomaniac, but John Hurt, of course, can handle it. Everyone else though, including Frodo Wood, is as stiff as a morning boner that is put to no use.

No comments: