Travel Movie Watch: ‘Homage to Catalonia’

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  05.20.09 | 10:53 AM ET

More than 70 years after its initial publication, George Orwell’s Spanish Civil War memoir is hitting the big screen.

Hugh Hudson, best known for “Chariots of Fire” and “I Dreamed of Africa,” will direct, while Colin Firth and Kevin Spacey have already signed on to star—the media coverage of the news doesn’t offer anything definite, but it looks as though Firth will play Orwell, and Spacey will take on the role of Georges Kopp, Orwell’s POUM commander.

“Homage to Catalonia” is one of my favorite books, ever, full stop—so naturally I’m both excited and concerned about the adaptation.

It won’t be an easy book to transfer to the screen: large chunks of it read more like political analysis or history, rather than a narrative-driven memoir, and those expository sections, filling in the crucial, convoluted details of the various leftist factions that banded together to fight the Fascists, will be tough to condense. (In fact, the coverage thus far already has those details wrong: Variety suggests that Orwell went to Spain to fight Stalinism, when in fact he went to fight Fascism—and then got caught up in the internal battles between the Trotskyists, Anarchists and Stalinists, who had initially maintained an awkward alliance.)

As for Colin Firth as George Orwell, he’s a talented actor, but I’ve seen him play the well-meaning, bumbling Englishman too many times to readily picture him as the Orwell I’ve always imagined: keenly observant, incisive and quietly cynical.

Still, I’m willing to keep an open mind. Labyrinthine politics aside, if the film can capture Orwell’s deep love and admiration for the Spanish people, his enjoyment of life in Catalonia in even the darkest times—the sentiment that is, really, at the core of the book—then it will be one worth watching.

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

8 Comments for Travel Movie Watch: ‘Homage to Catalonia’

Stephen Houston 05.20.09 | 3:37 PM ET

Looking forward to this, such a fantastic book on the Spanish Civil War, almost as good as Papa Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls! Some good actors in there too….

ega 05.20.09 | 6:31 PM ET

Thanks for the articles…i like it

Mary 05.21.09 | 6:11 PM ET

If you truly believe that Colin Firth cannot pull off keenly observant, incisive and quietly cynical, then you are not familiar with the man or his work.  Look past the comedies.  I’m really looking forward to this flick.  Firth and Spacey should make a great team.

Eva Holland 05.21.09 | 6:55 PM ET

@Stephen - I’m a big fan of For Whom the Bell Tolls, too!

@Mary - I’ll admit I’m not familiar with the man (are you? a friend or relation, perhaps? I seem to have touched a nerve) but I am familiar with his work. All I said was, I had trouble picturing him as the Orwell I imagine - hardly a slur. I certainly hope he’ll prove me wrong.

billcarr 05.23.09 | 12:16 AM ET

I can’t wait either, this sounds good. Like life pounded flat with color and with editing, extra real.

Tom 05.29.09 | 6:04 AM ET

Homage to Catalonia is a fine piece of reportage and, in my opinion, far superior to the simplistic work of Hemmingway.

If they do this right, it could be fantastic. The book is scattered with political jargon but most of it is quite exciting, particularly the return to Barcelona and the subsequent Stalinist attack on the Trotskyite and anarchist militias. It’s a story of intrigue, betrayal, values and war.

Orwell also says that he wished Gaudí‘s Sagrada Familia temple had been destroyed by the anarchists, calling it ‘hideous’.

Stephen Houston 05.29.09 | 9:05 AM ET

You can say a lot about Hemingway and his writing, but suggesting that ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ is simplistic is folly! The way in which he wrote it, with the dialogue of the characters speaking Spanish rendered literally with its ‘thees’ and ‘thous,’ required some diligence i’d say. The book is an adventure story but at the same time offers an excellent social analysis of the conflict. I’d rate it above Homage to Catalonia for pure reading pleasure any day.

Bender 06.07.09 | 3:47 PM ET

Soundtrack= Mark knopfler ; )

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