January 28th, 2007
Based on the 1925 novel by Somerset Maugham. Stars Edward Norton (Fight Club, The Illusionist) and Naomi Watts (21 Grams, King Kong).
Walter (Norton) marries socialite Kitty (Watts) and whisks her off to Shanghai, where he works as a bacteriologist. Kitty has an affair and Walter, demonstrating an unexpected capacity for vengeance, forces her to go with him to a cholera-ravaged village in the Chinese interior. There it seems that each wishes the other to die of cholera, and failing that, they would like to die of it themselves, out of spite. Both decline to be inoculated, and they shove uncooked vegetables into their mouths in an unblinking game of chicken.
Diana Rigg, Mrs. Peel from The Avengers, appears as the Mother Superior of a French convent where both Walter and Kitty end up volunteering. Somehow the extreme circumstances allow the warring couple to see each other in a new light. When one of them contracts cholera, it is a shock to the viewer.
Politically the film depicts a time in China when the Nationalists are gaining power. In 1925 Mao Tse-Tung is 32 and leading labour uprisings in Hunan province, although this movie does not know that.
This is a non-action movie with no chase scenes. It has gorgeous scenery, adult situations, and fully-developed characters. I like it a lot.