Jake and I are still on our Jean Gabin kick. We recently saw two film versions of The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky. One by Jean Renoir starring Jean Gabin and the other an Akira Kurosawa film with Mifune. The star of both films is Gorky’s play. There really isn’t anything in this world quite like Russian drama and you can recognize it no matter where it is set. I think I liked the Renoir version a bit better though I think it was probably very far from the original play. Both films focus on entirely different characters and it is in many respects like watching two different stories.
I leave you with a monologue from the play. You can read the entire play at Google Books here.
PEPEL: I told you — I’m through with being a thief, so help me God! I’ll quit! If I say so, I’ll do it! I can read and write — I’ll work — He’s been telling me to go to Siberia on my own hook — let’s go there together, what do you say? Do you think I’m not disgusted with my whole life? Oh — Natasha — I know . . . I see . . . I console myself with the thought that there are lots of people who are honored and respected — and who are bigger thieves than I! But what good is that to me? It isn’t that I repent . . . I’ve no conscience . . . but I do feel one thing: One must live differently. One must live a better life . . . one must be able to respect one’s own self . . . I’ve been a thief from childhood on. Everybody always called me “Vaska — the thief — the son of a thief!” Oh — very well then — I am a thief — . . . just imagine — now, perhaps I am a thief out of spite — perhaps I’m a thief because no one ever called me anything different. Come with me. You’ll love me after a while! I’ll make you care for me . . . if you’ll just say yes! For over a year I’ve watched you . . . you’re a decent girl . . . you’re kind — you’re reliable — I’m very much in love with you. Please — feel a little sorry for me! My life isn’t all roses — it’s a hell of a life . . . little happiness in it . . . I feel as if a swamp were sucking me under . . . and whatever I try to catch and hold on to, is rotten . . . it breaks . . . Your sister — oh — I thought she was different . . . if she weren’t so greedy after money . . . I’d have done anything for her sake, if she were only all mine . . . but she must have someone else . . . and she has to have money — and freedom . . . because she doesn’t like the straight and narrow . . . she can’t help me. But you’re like a young fir-tree . . . you bend, but you don’t break. . . . Come, Natasha! Say yes!