Filmmakers have been trying to capture Madame Bovary on the screen ever since the movies learned to talk.
But, although film technology has improved, the challenge of giving a good account of Gustave Flaubert's novel seems only to have become more difficult.
You can see one of the problems during almost every minute of Sophie Barthes's new version: Emma Bovary (played by Mia Wasikowska) is supposedly revolted by her commonplace surroundings in provincial Normandy, but the camera constantly tries to seduce us with picturesque imagery. Her boring village becomes our period-movie theme park.
Worse, Emma turns into a straightforward romantic heroine. Flaubert tells us throughout the book that her notions of love are warped by cheap literary romanticism, but Barthes presents her as a true-love warrior who just picks the wrong men.
Barthes feels the need to improve on Flaubert, adding and dropping scenes and inventing social metaphors – mainly spiderwebs and corsets.