Sunday February 5, 2006
Albert Camus's great philosophical novel, L'Etranger, published in Britain as The Outsider, was filmed in 1967 by Luchino Visconti with Marcello Mastroianni as Meursault, the affectless French-Algerian who kills an Arab for no particular reason in pre-World War Two Algiers and tells us his story while waiting to face the guillotine. The movie wasn't a success. Nor is Fate, Zeki Demirkubuz's transposition of the book to present-day Istanbul, where Meursault (played with appropriate blankness by Serdar Orcin) becomes Musa, a clerk in a shipping office, living with his elderly mother. In this version the hero is framed for a double murder and gets married. But generally the film is faithful to Camus's notion of Meursault as a seemingly conscienceless man, who is in fact at odds with society (and condemned) because he speaks the truth about the essential meaninglessness of life. The film is not without interest, but in attempting to capture the novel's laconic prose it becomes flat and unvaried in its rhythms.