The Triumph of Love

Witty staging of a somewhat obscure 18th century farce by French playwright Marivaux. A surprisingly well-versed Mira Sorvino stars as a princess who dons the disguise of a man in order to infiltrate the estate of her enemies, an influential philosopher (Ben Kingsley) and his scientist sister (Fiona Shaw), and entice Kingsley's ward (Jay Rodan), who's the actual heir to the throne, to marry her. A complicated set-up leads to more complications, as Sorvino reveals her femininity to both Kingsley and Rodan while hiding it from Shaw, and all three wind up falling in love with her.

As The Triumph of Love is a faithful adaptation of a nearly 300-year-old play, the film is talky, stagy, and overtly theatrical. Peploe makes good use of the lush grounds of a sprawling Italian estate, but this is still basically filmed theatre: a couple of awkward cutaways to a modern-day audience watching from the lawn indicate Peploe's admission of such.

The actors are all quite wonderful (especially Shaw as the lonely spinster who falls head over heels for the disguised Sorvino), the story itself is whimsical, but the camerawork is a trifle weird and the editing is overtly weird, almost random: with a movie filled with jump cuts, slightly different angles of the same scene cutting against each other, and jarring close-ups, I couldn't decide if Peploe and editor Jacopo Quadri were trying to be arty or didn't know what they were doing. Either way, the editing doesn't work.

The only other major flaw is that for some reason composer Jason Osborn decided to wreck his lovely classical score by including anachronistic (to say the least) electric guitar solos by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour(!).

I'd recommend The Triumph of Love to theatre buffs: Sorvino, Kingsley, and Shaw are all joys to watch, and they clearly seem to be having a good time. Others might squirm in their seats, unaccustomed to the chatter and the unexpected length of such a light comedy (two hours).

Trivia note: a lot of the production crew come from Bernardo Bertolucci's camp; indeed, Bertolucci cowrote the script and produced the picture.