Gah! I recently watched the first episode of the British TV show Casanova. Yes yes, I know I’m way behind the times. But I’ve been writing books for the last five years, not watching TV. And really, I think I’ve been afraid to see the show. I was right to be.
I imagine that many people worked very hard on this show. And a writer did his research and spent many hours writing a script. And hell, Peter O’Toole and David Tennant signed up for this. So who am I to criticize? I don’t want to be mean-spirited or unfair, but I can’t not comment on the show after I spent a few years reading and writing about Casanova’s life.
But in the first five seconds Casanova jumped off a balcony and tried to land on a horse. In Venice. There hadn’t been horses in Venice for a few centuries. And then his mom got into a carriage. Pulled by horses. In Venice. There were no horses in Venice, so there certainly were no carriages. Couldn’t the producers afford gondolas? Perhaps the creators needed to bend history because the city of Venice didn’t give them permission to film more than one scene on a canal. And why is it that every Casanova movie feels the need to have groups of angry husbands chase Casanova through the streets of Venice? It never happened that way.
Casanova wrote his life story. He put himself out there for us to read about. Many Casanovists believe he was part historian, part storyteller. Casanova dined on his stories, meaning that he was such a good storyteller that others were happy to feed him to hear his stories in return. So I’ve often felt that, while it may not be fair to stereotype a person like Casanova, at least it’s not exceptional that others would do so to someone who has become an icon, a legend. I tried in my own writing about Casanova to dig deeper than just the stereotypes, to round out the man with stories beyond the sexy bits. Yes, those sexy bits are fun, and are fun to retell, but when Peter O’Toole as the septuagenarian Casanova says to the dewy maid, “Are you here for sex?” I just about choked on my cheesecake.
But what really got me about watching the TV show is the way that other people (or should I say characters, because they weren’t the real people Casanova wrote about) were so changed to fit the TV story line. Bragadin a priest? Nanetta and Marta Savorgan little wantons? And worst of all, the treatment of Henriette. Her story is so very twisted that it barely resembles anything of truth. For starters, she never lived in Venice, and she was never going to marry a Grimani. Surely these people don’t deserve this destiny, just because they were in Casanova’s orbit.
I know it’s just TV entertainment. But still. The furrow between my eyebrows took a couple hours to dissolve.