A word or two about the movie, Snow Falling on Cedars (1999). As I read in a movie review website, the movie of Snow Falling on Cedars is all about atmosphere and cinematography. Because of that, the plot suffers a bit and is quite confusing. Of course, I had just read the book, so I knew what the flashbacks were referring to, but my husband was a bit confused.
Especially vague was why the two fishermen, upon whom the plot hinges, were seemingly angry with each other. The anger, vindictiveness and prejudice of Carl’s mother is never fully explored nor is the childhood friendship of Carl and Kazuo, which might have made their agreement over the disputed property more understandable.
Max Von Sydow is awesome as the defense attorney…his portrayal is very much like the character in the book, and he has the movie’s best line, “If I were that old, I’d be dead.” Ethan Hawke suffers appropriately, and Hatsue is charming and beautiful as is Susan Marie.
One thing that the movie does express beautifully is the dignity of the Japanese people, their sense of honor, and their love for family. The scene in the movie when the people are taken off the island is very poignant, with the men in the top coats and bowlers, and the women in their fur trimmed coats and high heels going off to an uncertain future.
Of course, like most movies, the book’s point has to be made obvious, and while justice was done, it wasn’t a happy ending for all concerned. The movie’s ending has more plot devices than the book does, and I rather liked that the book didn’t link Hatsue and Ishmael again. Ishmael did what was right and that should have been ending enough.
It is always hard to watch a movie based on a book you have read. I tried to watch this movie through my husband’s eyes. There were a lot of loose ends in the movie that were beautifully explained in the book. I think that the book’s portrayal of the war scene in which Ishmael loses his arm is amazing; the movie is very confusing and one is never sure quite what happened to him.
However, on moodiness and poignancy of setting, the movie can’t be beat.