Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Ring (1996)
Shot for TV in the early part of 1996 by talented director Armand Mastroianni in Paris, Prague and Switzerland, The Ring is far from one of Nastassja’s most distinguished productions but for a TV mini-series it is not bad at all. Featuring a noteworthy cast and Nastassja in a splendid lead performance, The Ring is a fairly classy period piece loosely adapted from a Danielle Steel novel.
Mastroianni has worked mostly in television in his near three decade career but genre film lovers will remember him mostly for his stylish 1980 slasher flick, He Knows You’re Alone. His work on The Ring is fairly solid and he captures Germany during World War Two quite well consider the means, locations and budget he had to work with.
Steel’s original novel, centering on a young woman separated from her family in Germany during the war, had been originally published in 1980 and it is widely considered among her most serious and better works. Steel had no active involvement with the script of the film version (those duties went to Nancy Sackett and Carmer Culver) but the network had no problem selling the film as one of her works, and indeed in much of the original advertising her name is listed as big as the title of the film. Ironically, the final film version apparently strays quite a bit from Steel’s original novel, although I can’t comment on this as I haven’t read it.
Joining Nastassja is an undeniably impressive cast including Michael York, Allessandro Nivola, Leslie Caron and Leigh Lawson (who had appeared in Tess with Nastassja more than fifteen years previously.) The whole cast delivers solid work, especially Nastassja who seems to be relishing having a meaty and serious part again after the dreadful double shot of Crackerjack and Terminal Velocity that had proceed The Ring.
Behind the scenes are some top of the line players as well, including famed composer Michel LeGrand, whose score gives the film a tragically romantic and rather lush feel. Also, while the film never fully escapes from the trappings of a TV production, cinematographer Gideon Porath manages to give it a stately and distinguished look that separates it from most TV films of the era.
The Ring is nowhere near perfect and at 180 minutes it feels more than a little overblown and at times overtly melodramatic. Thankfully Mastroianni manages to keep things interesting and the film moves along at a nice pace, and never completely outstays its welcome.
The film appeared on American TV over two nights in October of 1996 to fairly solid ratings and mixed to positive critical notices. It would prove more popular in parts of Europe, where it had some sporadic theatrical showings throughout 1998 and 1999. It is currently available on DVD and I will eventually post some screenshots of it when time permits.