The Art of the Apology
by Carolyn McCulley
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2 hours ago
Patrick Rist,(15th August 4.14 p.m.) one of several who chide me for being too hard on the film 'Master and Commander' asks me to try to imagine adapting one of Patrick O'Brian's novels to the screen. Actually, after seeing the feeble version that everyone seems to like so much, I asked myself this question and came up with several better answers. I walked out of the cinema almost dazed with disappointment that such a superb, richly furnished idea had been reduced to such a banal result. I asked myself if I could have done better and concluded that I could. SPOILER WARNING: Those who haven't read all the books shouldn't read on if they don't want to discover some important details of the plot. I should have opened with Jack Aubrey's rescue of Stephen Maturin from a French torture chamber in Port Mahon, so explaining their relationship and Maturin's importance in a way that Weir's film doesn't properly do, and then built my plot on the gradual exposure (and eventual death and vindictive but deserved dissection by Maturin himself) of the horrible British traitor and desperate gambler, Wray. I am sure I could have flung in a few sea battles, Diana Villiers and her diamond, the great village boxing match, Aubrey's arrest for debt and a couple of decent sea battles. And I would have got the Lord's Prayer right, and made sure that Aubrey (the least speechifying person imaginable) didn't prose on about 'this ship is England', as if his foremast jacks didn't know that as well as he did. The books are full of wonderful cinematic material. The real problem is casting Aubrey, as I am not sure this kind of Englishman is being made any more. If there is to be a 'Master and Commander 2', I'm happy to offer my advice to whoever makes it.