There are many books that make themselves clear right from the first page. You know that whatever is going to follow will have you hooked. This defines Memoirs of a Geisha perfectly. It has all the necessary elements that accompany its reader pleasantly while it offers a cultural adventure into one of the most intriguing stories: the life of a geisha.
The book was published in 1997 and became a world-wide best seller in no time; written by the American novelist Arthur Golden – a specialist in Japanese history and culture. Memoirs of a Geisha narrates the story of a geisha named Sayuri, following a timeline structure. It’s written in the first person and the whole story takes place in Japan before and after the Second World War.
In order to make it work, the writer follows a lot of clichés regarding the structure and the development of the story. However, it’s a book that stands out thanks to the fact that the reader gets a deep insight into some of the most interesting and sacred rituals involved within the geishas’ community. The book provides a detailed description of what it means being a geisha: an artist, a happy and pleasant companionship and at times a mistress. I think that’s what the author accomplishes best, clarifying to the western world what a geisha really is and how difficult it is to become one.
After its huge success, there was no doubt that getting it adapted into a movie would be a clever move. In 2005 the movie was released, directed by Rob Marshall and written by Robin Swicord, Memoirs of a Geisha was greeted with huge success. The audience loved it and the critics praised it. It managed to get 3 Oscar awards (of the 6 which it was nominated for).
As an adaptation, it had the usual casualties in order to flow and fit into 145 minutes. Many things were omitted or alternated but the basic story was there and the characters followed the book’s guidelines. The most beautiful Asian actresses were cast to participate, arising debates whether or not it would be appropriate to have the main female roles being played by Chinese actresses. Li Gong, Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang played their roles beautifully, convincing the audience as geishas thanks to their grace and elegance. On the downside, the movie failed to fully explore the importance of ceremonials and the strictness of following specific rituals. Nevertheless, the protagonist in the film was the scenery and photography that managed to create a perfect background. The high aesthetics of the film makes it worth watching more than once.
Memoirs of a Geisha (film) at IMDb
Memoirs of a Geisha (book) at Wikipedia
Memoirs of a Geisha (film) at Wikipedia
Memoirs of a Geisha (film) at Rotten Tomatoes
Memoirs of a Geisha (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb