A tale of love and disappointment set against the backdrop of a cholera epidemic in 1920s rural China, The Painted Veil follows the travails of a young English couple who marry too soon, and for all the wrong reasons.
The movie, which opened last week in select U.S. theaters, is the third film adaptation of the novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Directed by John Curran, it stars Edward Norton as Dr. Walter Fane, a boring and bookish bacteriologist who, after a brief courtship, marries Kitty (Naomi Watts), a dazzling and self-absorbed young woman from an upper-class English family. Soon after, the couple relocate to Shanghai, where a bored Kitty finds entertainment in an affair with a diplomat.
Walter learns of Kitty's betrayal, and in his anger, he forces her to follow him to a remote and beautiful Chinese village to battle an outbreak of cholera. The story traces the resentments that can tear away at a marriage, even as husband and wife are transformed by their recognition of a world outside themselves.
Norton, who studied Chinese history at Yale, devoted several years to getting the film made and shares a producer credit with his co-star Watts. He talks with Robert Siegel about the making of the film -- one of the highlights of which, he says, was filming in the real Chinese countryside.