|Albert Finney as British Counsel Geoffrey Firman in the John Huston directed movie version of Under the Volcano by Malcom Lowry.|
Under the Volcano (1984)
d. John Huston
Criterion Collection #410
I read a recently published paperback version of the Malcolm Lowry novel while on vacation in Mexico over the holiday. I was taken, as indeed, are many who read the book, by the bleak portrayal of "self-destructive" British Consul Geoffrey Firman. He is played in the movie by Albert Finney, who received an Oscar nomination for best lead actor. Finney's visceral portrayal of a man who is quickly drinking himself to death brings a certain energy to the proceedings that is shocking even if you have recently read the book.
This performance makes up for the tampering with a plot that is very much concerned with rhythm and structure. Huston goes so far to as change the ending of the book, where both Firman and his wife die in separate events around the same time, to simply having Firman die and the wife cradle him in her arms as he expires from the gun shots he suffers at the hands of Mexican fascist. The "all in one day" format is just as suitable for the movie as it is for the book, and it left me wondering why people said that Under the Volcano was an "unfilmable" book. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon- those are examples of really unfilmable books. Under the Volcano takes place in 24 hours and has three main characters. You could make it into a play.