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CHOCOLAT

The Story of Chocolat

Writer Robert Nelson Jacobs found himself descending deeper and deeper into a chocoholic haze as he worked on the adaptation of CHOCOLAT, for which he conducted intensive research into the history, mystical legacies and myths surrounding chocolate. (Despite his cardiologist brother's warnings, Jacobs felt that he had to sample the wide range of chocolate's exultant effects -- for authenticity's sake, of course.) But the more Jacobs savored the chocolate, the more he was drawn into the story's rich center and its insights into human desires and the destructive impulses of repression and bigotry.

Jacobs decided from the beginning that his priority would be to get the mix of CHOCOLAT's elements exactly right, blending comedy, sensuality and dramatic confrontation with a hint of something mysterious in the recipe as well. "I was very drawn to the charm and the magic in the story, to the mixture of wit and wisdom," says Jacobs. "I wanted to strike a real balance between the humor, the dramatic surprises and most of all the real emotional honesty of the characters."

He continues: "I felt that CHOCOLAT was, at its heart, the story of how Vianne gives people faith in themselves and how, in turn, they give that gift back to her. It's not just the story of how Vianne changes Lansquenet but how Lansquenet changes Vianne."

Jacobs also wanted to present each of the townsfolk of Lasquenet as real, flesh-and-blood human beings, each filled with strengths and foibles of their own — the heroes fallible, the villains compassionate. His vision of Lansquenet was of a fable-like town populated by very human troubles and triumphs.

Jacobs did make one major change from the novel. which places the town's priest at the center of the battle with Vianne. Jacobs instead turned Reynaud from a priest into a nobleman — and turned the town's priest into a mere pawn in Reynaud's machinations. Explains producer Leslie Holleran: "In Bob Jacobs' script, the conflict between Vianne and Reynaud goes beyond church versus chocolate to something more universal. It becomes a conflict between a woman who blows in on the wind and a man who believes in tradition, rigidity, control and piety. This was an inspired and surprising bit of writing that really resonates in a global way. It's a testament to Bob Jacobs' inventiveness that he took the ideas of the novel and gave them even more scope. And of course the humor and humanity of the Comte De Reynaud really appeals to Lasse Hallstrom's style."

"What's wonderful about the script is that it could translate into any society in the world at any time period," notes David Brown. "It is a written as a story that people of all ages can enjoy but it has a real cutting edge to it."

Robert Jacobs also deepened the historical aspects of CHOCOLAT, delving into the myth- laden history of chocolate among Mexico's lost Mayan Indian civilization. Comments Joanne Harris, author of the novel: "I loved Bob Jacobs' script, and I thought he did a very nice job of interpreting the essence of the book in a way that comes alive at the movies."

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