The author Elizabeth Knox lay in bed and cried for days after watching Niki Caro's film adaptation of her acclaimed book The Vintner's Luck.
Knox, who got to see the film only days before its first public showing, says she was shocked and upset by how much it departed from her story.
"She took out what the book was actually about, and I was deeply surprised and deeply puzzled by it, because I don't know why she did it."
The film did have virtues, including its visual beauty and the actors' performances, Knox said.
"But I kept expecting the story that I'd written to happen."
The movie opened in New Zealand last week. It has received a critical drubbing both here and overseas, but Knox has kept her reaction quiet until now because she wanted viewers to decide for themselves.
The book centres on a 19th-century gay romance between an angel, Xas, and a French peasant winemaker, Sobran Jodeau.
But the film reduced that relationship to little more than the angel giving advice about wine, Knox said.
"The film doesn't do the gay romance. It has a vague gay flirtation that amounts to nothing and it has quite a lot of heterosexual sex in it."
Immediately after seeing it, Knox wrote an email to Caro praising much of the movie but also calling it a "betrayal" for its treatment of the relationship. She received a response that was polite, but a "great big cop-out", she said.
Since then, she and her husband, the publisher Fergus Barrowman, had sent more emails to the film's producers, including one while "I was lying in bed crying for several days", Knox said.
The disappointment had come during a difficult year, when her mother had also been ill, so it was hard to separate the stress from that and the film.
She had little to do with making the movie, she said. "I believe in letting people get on with their jobs. And I also trusted [Niki] and had respect for her as an artist."
Knox said she would have been happy if Caro had ignored the tale and created a great new film, but that wasn't the case. "She's taken her own chance on her own story – and it hasn't worked."
When contacted by The Dominion Post yesterday, Caro immediately hung up and subsequently did not return phone messages.
REVIEWS OF THE FILM
Not even Caro's earthy, sensuous film-making can overcome the tale's glib supernatural conceit, overstated moral lessons and overall dramatic torpor. Justin Chang, Variety
An overblown work of amazing silliness. Peter Brunnete, The Hollywood Reporter
Readers of the book will be wondering why Caro has left out, well, pretty much everything ... What is left over is not only nonsensical, it is bloody tedious. Graeme Tuckett, The Dominion Post
Niki Caro's film of The Vintner's Luck will divide audiences. Some will despise it with a passionate fire, and some will merely find it rather dull and pointless. David Larsen, Listener
Falls midway between absurd and engrossing, misjudged and intelligent. Mike Goodridge, Screen Daily
The film's lyrical beauty and intelligence makes it something quite unexpected. Paul Fischer, Dark Horizons
- The Dominion Post
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