If you push a drama too far, it becomes a melodrama and this is exactly what has happened with The Sound and The Fury.
Based on the classic American novel by Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury details the lives of the Compsons, a once proud Southern family caught in a spiral of loss and misfortune. It is considered among the 20th century’s greatest works, espousing the universal themes of the death of honour, social injustice and forbidden love.
Racism is par for the course in this film and women are second-class citizens. Family dysfunction is at the heart of the story, resulting in violent scenes, sexuality, alcoholism, racist language, and the cruel treatment of a developmentally disabled man.
As in the novel, the film has three narrators, each one an unhappy son of the Compson family. The first of these is Benjy, an intellectually disabled young man. In Faulkner’s novel the reader is allowed into Benjy’s mind, but on screen we must deduce his feelings from the outside or his sister’s voice inside his head.
The second narrator is Benjy’s brother Quentin, a sexually inexperienced academic bent on saving his sister from an unscrupulous suitor. He is devoted to her, or is it more than just devotion?
The third narrator is Jason (the oldest son), a ruthless villain. He lashes out at anybody and everybody who threatens to ruin his plans for the future.
Had director James Franco (who also plays Benjy) not been so heavy-handed, cutting important sections of the text, The Sound and The Fury could have been a satisfying film. I found the story hard going however. It was fragmented and skipped back and forth from past to present which left me puzzled at times.
The actors endeavoured to make the most of their roles – Jacob Loeb as Quentin, Scott Haze as Jason and Ahna O’Reilly as the forth sibling Caddie. All have memorable moments, but these are obscured by over-acting at other times.
Seth Rogen as the telegraph operator was a stand-out, sincere and real. His scene was a highlight of the movie.
I found the musical score (if you could call it that) irritating, alternating from a drone that sounded like a plane about to land, to ethereal meanderings.
Overall it was ambitious to attempt to make such a lengthy American classic into a film. This sort of thing has been done successfully before, but not this time.
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 4
The Sound and The Fury will be released on DVD on 18 May 2016.