- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

HONG KONG (AP)British author Ian McEwan said he is happy with the movie adaptation of his best-selling novel “Atonement” despite initial reservations about its big budget and the medium of film.

Mr. McEwan praised director Joe Wright’s “lush visual sense” and “real sense and eye for instinct, for the emotional heart.” The author also hailed screenwriter Christopher Hampton’s ability to incorporate details from the book.

Speaking Tuesday at the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, Mr. McEwan said he was impressed with Irish actress Saoirse Ronan’s handling of the novel’s key character, Briony Tallis, whose false testimony as a child irrevocably changes the fortunes of her sister’s lover.

“Even if you couldn’t have access to her mind, you really got the sense of her mind just turning. And I think that’s really important to the success of the film,” he said.

The 59-year-old Booker prize winner added that the movie’s other two stars, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, “worked marvelously together.”

“I think Joe Wright turned out to be an absolutely superb caster,” he said.

He also said that he was initially skeptical of the movie’s $40 million budget, worrying that the big investment would allow commercial considerations — such as pressure to cast a marketable star — to trump artistic integrity.

But “all my fears were allayed,” adding that he typically regards film as an “inferior” medium to books because “you cannot give the reader the fine print of consciousness.

“You cannot convey that sense of the onward rush of thought and feeling that you can in a novel,” Mr. McEwan said.

“Atonement” has already shone in the awards season, clinching best dramatic film at the Golden Globe Awards and best film at the British Academy Film Awards. It is also up for seven Oscars, including best picture and best supporting actress for the 13-year-old Saoirse.

Mr. McEwan said he draws his observations about British class divisions from his own working-class upbringing, which he described as “not much money but just enough that no one starved.”

He said one memorable experience was when he was a university student and met the family of his first girlfriend, whose father was a minister who taught at Oxford.

He said he was impressed by the family’s diet of croissants, green peppers — and yogurt, which he said he had “never seen in my life.”

“To me it was a revelation— such wonderful food. No one I knew had squeezed orange juice for breakfast. No one fussed over grinding coffee. And, for me, it was something of a moment. I suppose you could call it a moment of peering over a class barrier,” he said.

Ian McEwan: https://www.ianmcewan.com

Atonement: https://www.atonementthemovie.co.uk/site/site.html

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