The two Vespers, the cinematic and the literary, are two women who have a great deal in common biographically…
Unless you also count the Vesper of the 1967 fever dream also entitled Casino Royale, which I don’t.
Despite the biographical similarities, the way this information is portrayed in their respective media paints two entirely different women. Let us delve into the shared back story and parse out how each woman’s personality is shaped by these events.
Both women work for Her Majesty’s government and are assigned to assist James Bond. They are “abducted” to lure Bond into a trap, remain with Bond during his recovery from Le Chiffre’s attack on his nethers, have a boyfriend who was kidnapped by the enemy to extort them into betraying their country, and ultimately commit suicide once they come to realize they cannot out run their misdeeds.
Fleming’s Vesper comes off as a blank canvas, an enigma which Bond mentally compensates for by projecting the attributes he would like her to have and that persona shapes these plot points into an intriguing story. In contrast by strictly adhering to the plot beats as laid out by Fleming and reworking her persona from a reserved, remote woman to a bombastic, self-assured lioness, the writers of the film were able to construct an absolute sociopath.
I am traitor hear me roar!
When Vesper first meets the Craig-Bond she confidently plops herself down at the dining table and proudly declares “I’m the money.” This along with the rest of the dialog leads Craig to observe she is a proud woman overcompensating to defeat the patriarchy at the treasury. However, let us remember (unbeknownst to Craig and the audience) she has already been turned by the terrorist organization behind Le Chiffre, had this been depicted beforehand, this little tete-a-tete she carries on with Craig would look entirely different in the audience’s eye, like a woman with no qualms about the sinister project she has been tasked with.
Aren’t I such a naughty little nymph
Contrast that with how Fleming introduces her, as rather withdrawn and somewhat shy, leading Bond to believe she has “a private room (locked within her) which he could never invade,” to which Bond chalks up to a slightly aloof, reserved nature. In contrast to her cinematic cousin, this Vesper’s attitude is well within character for someone forced into deceit and interacting with those she is about to betray.
As the story progresses the literary Vesper does very little to hinder or help the heroes and villains. She’s just trying to stay out of the way and praying it all gets sorted out without having to get too involved. The cinematic version on the other hand is traipsing in and out of the story at will, defiantly entering the casino from the wrong direction as Craig instructed, tipping off Le Chiffre to his “poker tell” (as we find out later), Even resuscitating Craig once he’d been poisoned.
If only she’d left well enough alone.
Talk about schizophrenic, she even goes so far as helping Craig defend himself from a terrorist’s assault one moment, then assuming the fetal position in the shower out of remorse the next.
I feel so bad about killing that terrorist in self defense, I wish it were you instead.
The Vesper of the novel’s only major sin is her complicity in her own “kidnapping” by Le Chiffre to lure Bond out for abduction and torture. Of course the cinematic incarnation also does this.
You’d have been better off not swerving old boy.
Where the sociopath and blank canvas really diverge is in the aftermath of the card game and torture. The Vesper of the novel is for all intents and purposes free of her obligation to the Soviets (or so she thinks) and stays with Bond during his recovery out of a genuine feeling of tenderness towards the man. The mission is over, Le Chiffre is dead and most importantly to our little comparison, the profits from the gambling competition are safely in the hands of the government. She has no other reason to stay with Bond other than her own desire to do so.
The film’s Vesper however, is still scheming to get her hands on all that precious loot and turn it over to the terrorists, cheapening her motivation to stick by Craig. The shell game played with the winnings confuses me a bit. Why didn’t the treasury have the proceeds deposited straight into an account they controlled, rather than a third-party account which Vesper would need to transfer to them? If the former, rather than the later, was what the government planned and the third-party account was Vesper acting outside her brief in order to divert the funds to Quantum/SPECTRE/Mr. White/Le Chiffre’s aunt Tilly, why not simply send it to an account controlled by the terror bank and cut yourself out as the middleman? Are we supposed to believe Vesper would want any further contact with these maniacs? Or was that the evil organization’s plan, trusting her not to lose her nerve and give up the whole ploy to MI6, especially once her boyfriend is dead? Speaking of that boyfriend…
I had another boyfriend once.
We can only assume she knows her kidnapped boyfriend is dead after she botched the mission to support Le Chiffre, either that or she just doesn’t care about him any more as she quickly shifts gears to the Craig-Bond as her one true love and her previous beau be damned. In that case why not let the money be turned over to the authorities and move on rather than keep up this charade?
Another problem with the boyfriend is Quantum of Solace’s meddling with the story and making him an agent of the organization. Are we to believe Vesper is willing to betray her country for the sake of a man she just met yesterday?
Surely the face to launch a thousand treasons!
The boyfriend angle in the novel makes sense as Vesper was in an established relationship and in love with this gentleman for some time before SMERSH kidnapped him when they found out she would be assigned to this mission. The Craig films on the other hand want us to believe in the short period between getting assigned to this project and arriving on the train to Montenegro she met this man, fell so deeply in love she would betray all she holds dear and according to the film SPECTRE, made a VHS tape about it?
We’re also supposed to believe the Craig-Bond and Vesper fell into an unrelenting passion because they spent a few days together at a casino and a few more holding hands in the rain at an Italian recovery clinic? Before you try to justify this by saying it took place over an extended period of time, let me remind you the entire film from the hardcore parkour…
(Video of Dimitrios sending a text to the parkour master right before Craig chases him.)
…to Craig sullenly picking his feet on the yacht spans just under a month!
Have you no decency sir!
I can almost smell the toe jam! Also note the date, just 29 days later.
If we are to believe all this, then this Vesper gal really works fast!
Vesper in a rare moment between boyfriends.
Now when it comes to the film Vesper selling out MI-6 to save this newfound boyfriend, consideration must be given to the idea she cares for the life of another human being regardless of how deeply in love she is with him, but remember how much of a big deal she makes to Craig about how if they fail “their government will have directly financed terrorism,” thereby costing hundreds or even thousands of lives. I guess as an accountant she can’t grasp that sort of arithmetic.
Math is hard, even with all my fingers and toes!
The film would have been better served by rewriting Vesper as a true Quantum/SPECTRE agent who gets turned by Bond over the course of the film à la Pussy Galore. It wouldn’t be true to the source, but they didn’t have a problem straying off course with the other 90% of the film so why not here too?
Going this route would make better sense of all the accounting rubbish and cause a deeper emotional impact. It would prove their love for each other is genuine, as it’s her love of Craig-Bond that sways her to “make a deal to spare his life” and she can do so convincingly. As an unwilling dupe she doesn’t have any clout to make a deal. Besides why would she have any reason to trust them to honor any such deal? She already made a deal for her first boyfriend and we saw how that turned out.
Let’s get literary, by the third act of the novel Bond has had his world view severely muddled after the torturous events at Le Chiffre’s home, the “villains and heroes have gotten all mixed up” as he tells Mathis. A world weary Bond who’s just survived arduous torture begins grasping for any sort of comfort, something or someone to pour himself into, to fill the vacuum of his life’s work now torn asunder. That life buoy comes in the form of Vesper, who unbeknownst to Bond also needs someone to cling to as her mission for the soviets has failed and her boyfriend has presumably been murdered. As they cling to each other, Bond projects all the virtues he seeks in a woman upon her, making her out to be more admirable than she is. When Bond finds out after her suicide that Vesper is not the virtuous “film” he has been projecting upon her blank screen, he is once again crushed and fills himself with a new-found resolve, pouring himself back into his original passion, his duty to England.
The agent we need, not the agent we deserve.
Of course, the literary Bond does care for Vesper as evidenced by the homages he pays to her in some of the novels that follow, for example it is revealed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that he visits her grave once a year, but because he cared for her and pities her for the position she was placed in by the Soviets doesn’t quite add up to the deep, profound and everlasting love foisted upon us by the Craig films.
We made love on a hospital bed once so we’re basically soul mates!
This finally brings us to the two suicides. Of course, as we all know in the film, after a subtle gun battle and the subdued sinking of an entire apartment building into the canals of Venice, Vesper locks herself within the rickety old elevator she was already locked in, wait what? Why is she locking the elevator? Do you mean to tell me she could have gotten out all this time? Why is there a lock on an elevator door? Anyway, she waits until the battle is over, when all her tormentors are dead, to look her lover square in the eye and drown herself. The only reason she has to commit suicide at this point is to avoid the punishment she’s earned and does so in the most traumatizing way to her lover.
Here lover watch me die, this shouldn’t mess up your psyche for years to come!
Nope, nothing haunting about this!
She knew all along this day would come, that the men responsible for all this turmoil would come calling for that hefty payday, yet she carried on as if she hadn’t a care in the world, as if the two of them would go right on sailing around the world and engaging in pillow fights for eternity. She doesn’t even seem the least bit perturbed when the devil comes to collect his due in the form of a text message!
Excuse me darling I must run to the bank, don’t mind the stench of sulfur when I return.
Unlike the film version, the literary Vesper has reason to believe she’s heading off into a fairy tale ending, her tormentors are dead, the money is safely locked away in the hands of the British government and no one knows what she was forced to do, not to mention she has the man of her dreams by her side. However, when she spots a SMERSH agent on the road and again skulking around their hotel, she is crestfallen. She realizes at this point she’ll never truly be free. Knowing she and/or Bond could be killed in an effort to tie up loose ends or be subjected to perpetual blackmail by the Soviets, facing the possibility of undergoing this horrific ordeal again at their behest least her secret come to the surface destroying her and whatever life she may make for herself. Most damaging of all having to face her lover with the awful truth of her actions. To spare Bond of all this and to avoid the painful confrontation which the producers decided to graphically depicted in the film, she decides the best course of action is to slip quietly off this mortal coil and into the restful arms of eternal repose with a bottle of sleeping pills alone in her room.
Farewell sweet princess.