Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

In which the blogger is played by Pierce Brosnan

The apparent unfilmability of the sensuous evocations of Patrick Suskind's Perfume was the staple lead of many reviews of the new movie, as if the novel itself wafted those smells from its pages. In response, the spirited blogger Jahsonic asks What makes a novel unfilmable? and begins a tentative checklist: "plotnessness, philosophical introspections". "Being a novel" would be my first suggestion. A novel should be a novel because it cannot be anything else. The hype generated by an adaptation as an adaptation indicates a lack of faith in its original form, most obviously a lack in the original's cultural authority, but also the residual lack inherent to all art. A question borne on this lack is the one that excites me, drives my entire interest in writing: what cannot be written? Most novels seem only too possible.

Proust's In Search of Lost Time is not unfilmable yet the three attempts I've seen have been at best disappointing. They're just films, while Proust's novel is somehow more and less than a novel. Harold Pinter's screenplay for Joseph Losey never got made probably because it responded in kind to the radicalism of the novel's form. The radio version of the screenplay confirmed to me Stanley Kaufmann's statement that it is "the best screen adaptation ever made of a great work and that it is in itself a work of genius". It wouldn't be congenial to commercial cinema in which adaptations are a means of obscuring the residual lack, turning a unique novel into "a major motion picture".

However, last week, the BBC went against the grain when it announced that plans to make a drama about the cold-blooded murder of Jean Charles de Menezes had been dropped. While some suspect political motives and the producer sees it as a betrayal of de Menezes family, I doubt the film would have done anything but give the murderers and those in the media who spread disinformation in the immediate and crucial aftermath, the benefit of the doubt, the doubt inherent to art.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:18 pm

    It's how they, the media, sustain itself I suppose. By repackaging everything and milking it of all it's worth. Is it any wonder how obscenely incestuous and deterministic the entire charade is? This is all yesterday's news. I think there was one reason why Patrick Suskind's novel eventually got made, inevitably, and I'll bold it such: Perfume: The Story of a Murder.

    I wholly agree with you about what makes a novel film-retarded... because it's a novel? I'm sure this will seem unimaginatively obvious to others. But then again, there are moooovies out there that manage not only to equal it's origins, but surpass them. Or even offer a different perspective that's just as engaging. They are, wherever they are, but few exceptions, while the majority is well, shit.

    I think each medium should be well, respect each other and know and explore it's own strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps that's what's happening now, and it will continue, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. It still just irks me though, to see someone talk about a movie like say, V for Vendetta, and call it a "cinematic philosophical artwork" and say it mines all the best characteristics of its "graphic" novel origin and streamline it into the most holy creation ever.

    Congratulations, you like novelty items calculated to resonate and insatiate via bullet-time + current events = teh awesome. And no respect to its origins or author who drafts it. Now go buy your mask and your black gown and parade around the White House. What cannot be written? Something that'll eventually be filmed.

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