‘Little Women is coming near your theatres in 2020’
Before that Corona came, so Torrent as usual steps in the humble abode of this eternally broke student’s life.
‘Adaptation’- the word itself is appalling to any book-lovers, irrespective of any particular book and if that specific book is that one which had already gone through the radar of three filmmakers before (1933, 1949, 1994), though each version in their own way demonstrates their era’s singularity.
To compare a 1933 book adaptation of ‘Little Women’ with Greta Gerwig’s feminist interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1888 American Literature classic is futile and of no use.
But it is absolutely necessary to discuss about a book which had made young girls dream, to aspire them to aim for the moon in spite of them being born in a gutter(only a metaphor), a book that made me wish I was Josephine (The second oldest daughter of Mr. March and an aspiring author) was my sister and three other sisters like Amy (with her particular nose, an aspiring artist), Beth (a timid, kind girl with a love piano) and Meg(the eldest daughter.)
When the movie came out, I was determined that never again I am going to butcher my nostalgia and childhood by seeing a two hour movie where I would annoyingly shout in the movie hall ‘BUT IT WASN’T LIKE THAT IN THE BOOK’ and that detrimental stare by that person sitting beside you.
Never again. I promised.
Promises are meant to be broken in the same way we can never stay true to our diet plans even after taking that new year resolution for the umpteenous time.
I would have missed a gem if I didn’t watched this version of ‘Little Woman.’ It is an ending that Louisa would have been proud of, an ending that she would have wanted her book to have.
Here’s my take on a storytelling and cinematography that excelled the other adaptation of ‘Little Woman'(in my opinion.)
Greta Gerwig told Advocate in an interview, ”I feel like If I can’t give Louisa May Alcott an ending she would have liked 150 years later, then there’s no reason to make this movie again.” She also asserted that the book was something that was behind her ambition to be a Writer, and it is the the constant companion of her childhood, of her youth and ‘Jo’ was someone who continued to be a primary influence, trespassing the boundaries of her fictional figure and mingled with the Director’s (also an actress and writer) persona.
FIVE reasons you should watch this cinematic adaptation of Greta Gerwig’s ”Little Woman”(2019).
The significance of Cinematography
The one thing that would capture and entice your imagination,is, from the moment the grown up Sisters arrive, each in their own World, separated. The use of bleak, cold colors tinted with maturity and deploration to depict adulthood and the vivid color palette used to portray their childhood days is brilliant and evokes a sense of romantic nostalgia that is the back-bone of Greta’s storytelling. The cinematic technique of going back and forth, and shuffling a delicate balance between unreachable Past and throbbing present is for everyone who read that book or even watching it for the first time- tugs a genuine string of memories, and sings the universal tune of innocence, mistakes, heartbreak, dreams, loneliness, growing old and growing apart, grief and finding oneself in the end.
The power of storytelling
Even in her interviews, one notices that she was determinant about giving this tale of Sisters her own speck of imagination, when I went to watch the movie I put aside my perspective and attempted to view my favorite classic of all time through a different vantage point.
Even what could be assumed through reading Louisa’s interviews at that time, in one, which she spoke ‘‘I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body’‘, it gives me the impression that a feminist like her would never have settled her protagonist into a marriage, if not persuaded by her publisher( over-shadowing her repetitive statement of ‘I don’t believe that I shall ever marry” in the book ) to sacrifice her dreams by molding her into a statue she was never meant to be in. Greta changed the ending, a might be honest portrayal of the author’s own wishes. An ending she never managed to give her ambitious, wild Jo in a century where an unmarried protagonist is equivalent to an unsold book.
The ‘Amy'(Abigail May Alcott) we never knew.
”Independence was a marked trait ……..failure was a word unknown in her vocabulary of effort”– An impression of Amos Bronson Alcott, her father about Abigail.
The character of the least favorite sister, often labelled as the ‘Selfish, Snobby” one was mildly modeled on Abigail May Alcott (1840-1879), a brilliant artist, a new woman of 19th century, a sister that was somehow lost in the shadow and glitter of Louisa May Alcott, whose portrayal in the cinema has evaluated her value and dignity as an artist and a woman of ambition, much more than the finite portrayal in this book about this wonderful artist of still life, oil painting and watercolors.
Amy’s speeches in one particular scene to Laurie delineates and concentrates on the economical independence that was restricted for a woman in the 19th century, and opportunity that a woman from humble background was deprived of, is a substantial social commentary on the veracity of why a women had to ensure a matrimonial partner to secure a comfortable life.
”The limitations that she was confronted with belonging to a poor stratum of the society and not receiving proper training and attention in comparison with their male counterpart.”-Burdan on Abigail May Alcott.
Greta provides this exceptionally talented woman with a dignity and recognition that touched my heart.
The dying sister ‘Beth’ (Elizabeth Sewall Alcott)
”For with eyes made clear by many tears, and a heart softened by the tenderest sorrow, she recognized the beauty of her sister’s life- uneventful, unambitious, yet full of the genuine virtues which smell sweet and blossom in the dust.”–‘Little Woman.’
Louisa represented her sister Elizabeth in the semi-autobiographical novel ‘Little Women’ as Beth. She was called ‘Little tranquility’ by her father for her shy, timid, peaceful nature. In any of the previous adaptation she was invisibly labelled as ‘the girl who dies.’ Greta sketches the character away from the sympathy and often fictional narrative into which Louisa and her father projected Beth into, never allowing her to belong to herself, to confine her into a ‘Dear’ and nothing else.
In the first chapter of Little Women, when Louisa May Alcott is assigning out archetypes to the siblings, Beth asks, “If Jo is a tomboy and Amy a goose, what am I, please?”
“You’re a dear,” Meg answers, “and nothing else.”
Even this movie had painted her into a saintly character who is faultless, kind, beautiful chatting ceaselessly about goodness, and piety. Her family had a narrative, the whole world, in fact, even today, that stripped this twenty two year old woman of her own character, a person who was funny, made art, humorous, and a pale sickly woman who was scarcely ninety pounds (at the time of her death), hair barely there, in love with goth so intensely that she married death herself, ‘Little skeleton’, died so young and furious at the world.
A dear, nothing else?
Jo and Laurie dynamics.
These two broke my heart when I was 12, still oblivion to the greater truth that some people just aren’t for each other and one of the most picturesque scene in the movie, shot brilliantly and manages to bring the utter exasperation of Laurie and with the use of warm colors- yellow, golden, brown in that scene, I bribed myself to cry.Again.
A personal commentary: Laurie and Jo was two separate individuals with completely distinct idea about dreams and love and marriage, Their relationship in their youth worked when there was more space for gender fluidly but it starts to fall apart when they are called to conform more, and Laurie confirmed to that image of a spoiled 19th century brat who squanders money, smokes, drinks and enjoys an emancipation denied to a woman, Jo missed that liberty of doing something without being judged by the society, when they were younger this didn’t seem to come in between, but as she grew older it materialized, their confirming to their expected gender roles. Jo’s perception about masculinity is in contrast to Laurie’s idea of a Woman at the time he proposed her. Laurie was immature, took no responsibility of his life until then, usually mothered by Jo, Jo was honest in her logical reasoning of why She can’t love him, but Laurie threatened her, in most of the movies the dialogues are abridged or romanticized while in the book, Laurie’s proposal was mainly about him, and he constantly tries to make Jo feel guilty about it.
Laurie is filled with vanity and pride that snatches him from the ability to think from another person’s perspective and this is why his growth takes considerable time and with Amy, he is a changed man, though it took time and a trip to Europe and a broken heart- this character’s growth warms us.
At the end of this article I must say the movie felt like a personal triumph to me, an ending to a story the way author might have wished, and the individual portrayal of each character’s uniqueness and their little( which are definitely not little) dreams, and a classic tale that celebrates Womanhood and life, love, passion and enriched with a warmth-ness that made this movie a story I will go back to…. again and again.