Recently we watched the movie The Painted Veil. I enjoyed it so much I also read the book it is based on by W. Somerset Maugham. Both are excellent although as much as I hate to admite it this is one time where I liked the movie better than the book. Shocking though that is, it’s true in this case.
The basic story is of a British married couple in 1920’s Hong Kong. The wife has an affair (don’t worry I’m not giving away the story, this occurs at the very beginning) and as punishment the husband (a doctor) takes her with him to a town suffering from a horrible cholera epidemic in China’s interior. The story is about what happens after they are in the town. Both the movie and book really deal with themes of redemption and grace and are each thought-provoking in their own way.
The book primarily focuses on the wife’s spiritual journey and how this experience changes her as a person. The movie is more about both the husband and wife as individuals and their relationship. I think because of that the movie is more satisfying. The movie ending is less realistic, but ultimately more satisfying. The movie does a better job of portraying what is going on in China during the time period. The book was written in the 1920’s and is definitely more from a British perspective, there isn’t much about China or the Chinese people other than that they are used as a background for the story. In the book, the wife also has some racist views which are probably fairly realistic for that time period, but distracted me from the story. And the movie is really visually stunning.
I would highly recommend both if you are looking for a great story that also will leave you pondering themes of forgiveness, redemption, and grace.