30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Four Feathers (Full Screen Collector's Edition) (DVD)
As a novel, the Four Feathers is an extremely introspective and psychological work, which obviously poses significant problems for whoever intends to adapt it. In reality there is very little action in the book, apart from a very quick knife fight, which again poses problems. I would hazard a guess that the Four Feathers' reputation as a "Victorian epic" is based more in the earlier renditions of the film, rather than in the novel. This new version departs from the novel in a number of ways, but I would argue that this is its' strength, rather than weakness. The filmmakers obviously saw potential in the setting and basic plot of the story, but decided to take it in their own direction. Some would call that blasphemy, but a film is not a book. Maybe the filmmakers looked at the Four Feathers, and didn't WANT to make a movie that was as close to the book as humanly possible. It's their prerogative- because they aren't rewriting the novel-they're making the movie.
Adapting a novel into a film is always tricky, especially when the novel was written a century ago. A lot can change in a hundred years. Still, enough can remain the same, that many fans of the original will nail you to the wall for every inaccuracy and alteration. In the case of "the Four Feathers" there are so many ways you can criticize the new film, that it's almost laughable. Read one or two of the negative reviews below, and you'll see complaints about plot holes, deflated characters, anti-imperialism, and failing to pay homage to the original 4 or 3 or 11 other versions that exist(I've lost count, because I obviously don't care). I'm not going to talk about what "the Four Feathers" isn't, but rather what it IS.
It is a film with breathtaking cinematography, which displays the haunting and forbidding landscape of the Sudan, from the rolling dunes of sand, to the blasted wastes. The film offers a look at a cross section of Imperialism, through the eyes of those affected- from the soldiers enforcing the rule to the people under it. I would disagree with those reviewers who see it as a dig against British tradition alone, but more against the traditions and beliefs that fuelled and supported Imperialism as a whole.
In closing, I'd just like to mention one of the many departures from the book that I felt strengthened the film, was the portrayal of Harry's reasons for refusing to fight. In the book, Harry has already done a tour of duty in India, and it is clear his reasons for refusing, is the thought of leaving Ethne. In the film, he makes some comment about "What does the Queen have to do with Africa" but in reality, that is a ploy, I feel. I think that Harry really is a coward, at least in the Victorian sense. He does not want to fight in war, because he is afraid. But when it comes down to protecting and proving himself to his friends, Harry is able to overcome his fears. Not bad. Not bad at all.