Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How do you adapt an unfilmable novel?

Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Hossein Amini has a reputation for adapting scripts from books that could never translate into films. His screenplays for The Wings of the Dove and especially Drive took novels that would be incoherent if adapted literally and made them natural fits for the screen. So how does one go about writing something like that?

Amini wrote a column for The Guardian about that process, and for him, it's all about the writer's personal experience reading the books. In the best novels, he argues, "the reader's experience of the book becomes as important as the words on the page," and screenwriters can extrapolate from their own interpretations of the characters to create new scenes and moments true to the spirit of the original work.

This is in contrast to films that closely adapt the original text, which Amini considers lifeless. You can see the same distinctive approach in other risky interpretations of unfilmable stories, like Naked Lunch and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, which is about attempting to adapt the story it's based upon. We'll take a film that's impressionistic and possibly a disaster over something staid every day.

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