Saturday, 28 July 2012

Notre Dame De Paris

Written by Victor Hugo and published in 1831 Notre Dame De Paris (or The Hunchback of Notre Dame) is considered one of the classics of literary world. Little known fact is that Victor Hugo wrote this novel in his pity for Notre Dame Cathedral which was falling apart and no renovations were being made. His main goal was to attract the attention to this cathedral by his novel which he achieved. Most of the scenes take part, within, atop or right outside the Cathedral. Not only did he save Notre Dame Cathedral from being demolished but also he presented this unbelievably beautiful novel to the world, one of my personal bests.

I am not going to evaluate the story, theme, motif etc here. I just want to express my own feelings on how I took the novel in. From the first paragraph and on, the detailed descriptions told me that what I held in my hands was a masterpiece. What made it masterpiece was not the story. If you read a summary of the novel on the internet you will not find it any different than a Brazilian Soap. But sometimes how you say something is so much more important than what you say. The way Master Hugo relates this story renders it majestic rather than melodramatic. What sets the old classics apart from the more contemporary classics (and by that I mean 20th century and on) is that the old writers wrote to reveal truths in human nature in a humanistic way and no detail escaped their notice. Do not mistake what I am trying to tell here, I do not mean Disney World humanistic where everything is pink and human is capable of incredible goodness. No, that's not my meaning. What I am trying to convey here is that, despite the terrible acts, violences, infidelities, betrayals you will find it hard to hate those characters. And that is a fantastic skill in writing. Notre Dame De Paris as a novel will make your hair stand and when you finish the book it will still follow you wherever you go for quite some time.

Disney's Notre Dame
The Hunchback 1997
There are so many adaptations of this novel most of which -if not all- deserve to be thrown into a trash can. Why some directors think they can do better than the writers themselves is beyond my understanding. In most of them the characterizations are off the mark especially that of Esmeralda, a good natured young gypsy who is partially unaware of the degree of her charms (at least that's the idea you get in the book) and she can be naive to the degree of stupidity. In most of the movies she is a vamp woman well beyond her 30ies and a she-wolf  to boot as if Monica Belluci should play her.

One of the worst adaptations I have seen so far is the movie: The Hunchback (1997), directed by Peter Medak who achieved brilliant new levels of destroying a perfectly good story. Whether the movie was made for children or grown-ups one cannot tell. When Disney changes the end of a violent book thats understandable because children are going to see that, when a grown up does that I think it is because they failed as writers and are avenging themselves in this fashion.

The best adaptation is the French-Canadian production musical which debuted on 16th of September 1998 with the original title of the book. The novel has got a great potential as a theatrical act either way since it offers very few scenes on locations other than the cathedral itself. This adaptation, I found, was very loyal to the novel itself, despite the fact that it is a partially modernized version,with a few finishing touches from the director and the actors. The theatrical musical has become specifically famous for the beautiful song 'Belle'.  Below I attach the video from the work with the famous song 'Belle'(Beauty) with English translation and everything :) Enjoy :)

 Finally as I close this post I would like to say that if you are into classics at all, Notre Dame De Paris is a must in your library. Thank you all for reading :)