New Greene film rekindles the affair

IT MAY BE The End of the Affair for the fictional characters, but a new film version of Graham Greene's novel suggests that the appeal of one of the century's best writers remains strong.

The original 1955 account of the book, with Deborah Kerr and Van Johnson as the lovers embroiled in an illicit relationship, glossed over Greene's central themes of Catholicism and sexuality. Shooting of the new US- British production begins in the next fortnight - the film is scheduled for release at the end of the year - and the makers are confident that these issues are exactly what will appeal to today's audience.

Free from the constraints of the censorship that pervaded Fifties Hollywood, director Neil Jordan and producer Stephen Woolley aim to make a film that retains the essence of Greene's narrative. The pulling power of the eminent novelist has attracted some prominent screen names to its central roles. Ralph Fiennes plays Maurice Bendrix and Julianne Moore his lover, who is unfaithful to her husband, played by Stephen Rea.

The story is set in wartime London where the lingering threat of death adds to the intense eroticism of the affair. When Bendrix is injured in a bombing raid, his mistress promises God she will end their affair if he recovers. Meanwhile, her suspicious husband calls in a private detective.

Jordan, the director of The Crying Game who more recently won critical acclaim for his screen adaptation of The Butcher Boy, says he found the combination of eroticism and guilt in Greene's novel "electrifying". "When I first read it five years ago I thought it was the best novel he had written," he said. "It's the simplest of stories but the dramatic core is very strong and its focus on the irrational is very relevant to contemporary life." What Jordan found particularly fascinating about the book was how closely he felt it mirrored the late novelist's own life. He thought long and hard around the subject to try to pin down the essence of the novel.

Where his film departs from the book, he says, is the moment when the story itself falls apart as Greene's exploration of theology begins totally to overwhelm his characters. "He turns his central character into a saint and departed from that by trying to make the ending more dramatic and concise."

Jordan maintains that it is this tendency in Greene's writing to allow the thematic development of his ideas to overwhelm his characters that has meant that few adaptations of his books have worked on screen.

He said: "The adaptations, including The End of the Affair, have tended to be fairly run-of-the-mill, apart from a few notable exemptions such as The Third Man."

According to Greene's biographer Norman Sherry, the novelist was also unimpressed by most of the films and in particular hated The End of the Affair. "He knew it was going to be no good. Hollywood was frightened of getting to the truth of novels such as The Power and the Glory. I don't think we are like that now; we can tell the truth," he said.

Sherry, who intends to complete the third and final volume of his biography by the end of March, said Greene thought very little of the movies because he wasn't involved with most of them.

"He sold them on to Hollywood knowing he couldn't control how they would turn out. The Third Man was excellent because Greene wrote the script. He also liked Brighton Rock and I think he would have approved of the choice of Ralph Fiennes in this new film."

Conditions in Hollywood were so restrictive during the Forties and Fifties, when many of Greene's novels were transferred to the screen, that, according to Stephen Woolley, "people made films inspired by books rather than adaptations, because the writing was far too explicit".

He added: "Greene was supposed to be a Roman Catholic but The End of the Affair was a book that challenged the existence of God. It was full of fantastic envy and sexual passion, not the sort of thing you could have got away with when cinema was considered to be the food of the masses, as television is today."

Greene's preoccupation with shifting morality and the collapse of belief systems is also what makes his work relevant today, says Ian Christie, professor of film studies at the University of Kent.

"Greene wrote noir novels about people living on the edge of society who moved outside the normal domain of good and bad," he said.

"He was one of the first novelists in Britain to grow up with the cinema and, as a former film critic, he was very clear about what made a good film.

"The sense of not knowing which side anybody was on in The Third Man worked brilliantly on film with the sewers and the wet night streets."

That film was set in the aftermath of the Second World War but, says Professor Christie, Greene's sensitivity to the breakdown of values and the question of how to believe in a secular world is still topical today, following the collapse of the Eastern bloc.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform