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In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.
Based on Ann Patchett’s best-selling novel, BEL CANTO is a dramatic love story that follows a famous soprano (Julianne Moore) who travels to a military dictatorship in South America to give a private concert at a party for a wealthy Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe). Just as the glittering gathering of diplomats and politicians convenes, the mansion is taken over by a guerrilla rebel group demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. Threats are made, lives are lost, a tense negotiation begins, and a month long standoff ensues. While they are confined to the house, the hostages and their captors, who speak different languages, are forced to find ways to communicate. Music, especially the beautiful arias performed by Moore’s character, a songbird in captivity, sparks a shared sense of comradeship and even love, uniting the disparate housemates as they form unexpected bonds, overcome their differences, and discover their shared humanity.
I am incredibly shocked by how well this movie portrays the plot and small details of the novel it is based upon. It have never before seen a movie that so justly portrays the book’s plot that it is adapted from. Despite it being underrated, this movie has phenomenal artistic merit. If you have not seen it, please do!
While the movie does deviate from the novel in small ways, including cutting out some of the detailed plot and well-developed characters, it still manages to do the novel justice. The majority of the important details in the novel and the evolution of the hostages’ relationships with their captors are clearly conveyed – especially in the final, climactic scene of the movie. However, the actual number of hostages is much greater in the novel than what is shown in the movie.
I read the novel before I watched the movie and I think the prior knowledge I had gave me more background into the actions and emotions of the characters’. Despite this, I still believe the movie would be enjoyable without having read the novel!
The country the hostage situation occurs in remains unnamed, in both the novel and movie. However, there are hints to where both actually took place. Both the novel and movie are set in a “South American country,” but there is a Peruvian flag over the fireplace in the movie, drawn upon by the captors.
The adaptation of Ann Patchett’s award-winning 2001 bestseller is based on real events in Peru in 1996, when rebels from the leftist Túpac Amaru movement raided a party at the Japanese ambassador’s residence and took hundreds of civilians hostage.
What is even more interesting is that the movie was filmed in Mexico City, Mexico. Therefore, it was not filmed in a South American country – the reported setting of both the book and movie. However, the negotiator (Joachim Messner played by Sebastian Koch) travels to the site of Myan ruins in order to, what the audience assumes, think things over. This does not take place in the novel. Since the ruins in Peru are Incan, it is clearly not filmed in Peru. Despite this, I would like to say that the movie, and where it was filmed, still does the book justice.
Furthermore, in regard to the setting, the house and yard that are shown in the movie are very similar to the ones illustrated in the novel. Therefore, the movie shows a great spacial awareness to what is depicted in the novel.
Please comment below and let us know what you thought of the book or movie!