Pinter, Losey & Proust
Losey films explore many of the themes that are also recurrent in the Recherche: the deceptiveness of appearances, the complexity of inner thought and emotions and the conflict between different social groups and classes, to name only a few prominent ones. Interested in detail character studies rather than action pictures, Losey, like Proust, meticulously examines individuals’ thoughts and feelings whitch he seeks to render through subtles gestures, words and facil expression. And, again like the french author, he believed that a falsely objective realism which simply records facts cannot acount for the complexity of human experience: in order to represent essences, it is necessary to delve beneath simple surface appearances.
Two versions of Proust’s novel which would be difficult to imagine more different: whereas Visconti opted for a chronological and teleological plot in tradition of the time-space continuum, Losey choose a highly fragmented narration whose different temporal levels are loosely connected by various associations and leitmotifs. Far for replicating one another, as the Visconti specialist Henry Bacon points out: ‘The scripts are so different that both could have had a place in film history, complementing, explaining and annulling one another’.
Through his associative narrative technique, his use of leitmotifs and his insistence on the subjetivity of human experience, Pinter comes close to the Proustian original both formally and intellectually. His script for In Search of Lost Time is more radical than any of later adaptations of the novel, including Raoul Ruiz’s Le Temps Retrouvé, which, all we shall see, is similarly resourceful in translating Proust’s complex treatment of time and space. Losey considered Pinter’s script as ‘the absolute height of his accomplishment’. Stanley Kauffman praised it as ‘the best screen adaptation ever made of a great work’, calling it a ‘re-composition in another art’ rather than just an adaptation. It is, however, still awaiting realisation as a feature film. The failure of Losey’s and Pinter’s Proust project seems to have ultimately rung the death knell for complete screens versions of the novel. Despite the fashion for all things Proustian in recent years, no cinematic adaptation of the book in its entirety has been accomplished to date.
*Proust at the Movies – Martine Beugnet/Marion Schmid, 2004