10 Books on Film at TIFF 2012
As a bona fide book lover (I am, after all, a librarian) and also a film fan, I was excited to see that there are so many books on film at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Although I almost always prefer the book to the movie (again, it's probably the librarian thing), the truth is I've watched plenty of movies over the years that have been based on books I've never read. This year, I hereby resolve to see the movie and read the book. After all, what kind of librarian would I be if I only ever watched the movie versions? (Wait, don't answer that, I've only just made my resolution...)
To get myself started, I've made a list of some of the literary film adaptations now screening at TIFF. I figure if I start reading the books now, I'll be all set to see the movie versions by the time they make it to my local theatre.
Which ones will you be seeing and/or reading this year?
There have been 12 previous adaptations of Anna Karenina; this one was scripted by Tom Stoppard and stars Kiera Knightly in her third collaboration with director Joe Wright, who also did film adaptations of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice. Leo Tolstoy's classic novel of love and adultery in late nineteenth-century Russia charts the tragic love affair between married aristocrat Anna and the wealthy Count Vronsky. Anna Karenina is considered a masterpiece of realist fiction and, by some, the greatest novel ever written.
Boy Eating the Bird's Food is the debut feature from Greek filmmaker Ektoras Lvgizos. It takes its inspiration from Nobel Prize winner Knut Hamsun's great urban novel of 1890, Hunger, and updates the story to the present day. Loosely autobiographical, Hunger is a fascinating first-person portrait of an impoverished, lonely writer driven to desperation and on the verge of self-destruction. Lauded for its vivid and visceral writing style, which uses interior monologues and stream-of-consciousness techniques, Hunger is regarded today as a premier example of the "psychological novel."
Cloud Atlas features a star-studded ensemble cast, including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Susan Sarandon, directed by the people behind Run Lola Run and The Matrix. This ambitious film is based on David Mitchell's award-winning, labyrinthine third novel, which delivers six separate stories, each connected to the next, that cover the globe and span some 1,000 years in time. The novel has been called everything from audacious and exhilerating to infuriating and pretentious and, well, unfilmable.
Dangerous Liaisons (print book)
Set in 1930s Shanghai instead of eighteenth-century France, this adaptation of the classic French novel stars Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) directed by Korean filmmaker Hur Jin-ho. Dangerous Liaisons is an epistolary novel, told entirely in letters, and has been described as one of the greatest studies of sexual immorality, evil, treachery, and the lust for power.
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang (print book)
Shot in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and directed by Palme d'Or winner Laurent Cantet, this take on Joyce Carol Oates' novel stars a cast of unknown young Canadians and is said to be more faithful to its source material than the previous adaptation, which featured a young Angelina Jolie. Foxfire is the engrossing story of a small town teenage girl gang in the 1950s who band together to take their vengeance on a predatory male world. Oates is a tremendously prolific writer whose coming-of-age stories of the lives of young women are always provocative, compelling, and, frequently, galvanizing.
The Lesser Blessed (print book)
Seven years in the making, this film was shot in Sudbury, Ontario, and is based on another coming-of-age story, The Lesser Blessed, by Richard Van Camp. The Lesser Blessed is the story of young metalhead Larry, a Native teenager growing up in a small northern town, trying to survive with a terrifying past and an uncertain future. Not for the faint of heart, this novel is profane, vivid, raw, and darkly funny.
Fearless Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta has collaborated with the equally fearless Indo-British author Salman Rushdie to make this highly anticipated adaptation of Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children. A multi-layered allegory that blends magical realism and the historical record, the novel is centred around the children born at the hour of India's independence and their inextricable link to the fate of modern India. Midnight's Children was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize not once but three times: first in 1981, then in 1993 and 2008 for the Best of the Bookers, as the best novel to have received the prize during its first 25 and 40 years.
Directed by Walter Salles, who also directed the film adaptation of Ernesto (Che) Guevara's road trip memoir The Motorcycle Diaries, and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, this film is getting plenty of buzz due to its high-voltage cast (yes, this is the one that Kristen Stewart, of Twilight fame, is in) but also its iconic source material. Published in 1957, and never before adapted for the screen, Jack Kerouac's On The Road chronicles his adventures travelling with Neal Cassady as they search for meaning in the jazz, poetry, and drug subcultures of America. Loose, episodic, and inspired, this is the book that helped to launch, and still defines, the Beat Generation.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a politically-charged thriller directed by the award-winning Mira Nair and starring Keifer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, and Kate Hudson. The film is based on the international best-selling novel by Mohsin Hamid, in which a Pakistani man named Changez recalls his transformation from an ambitious, upwardly-mobile young man living the American dream to a loathed scapegoat and perceived enemy in the wake of September 11. In 2009, The Guardian named this one of the books that defined the decade.
What Maisie Knew features the unexpected pairing of Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as two divorced parents whose daughter becomes trapped in their hostility toward one another. The film updates the Henry James' 1897 novel to modern day New York City but retains the perspective, told as it is entirely from the viewpoint of young Maisie. James' novel is celebrated for its convincing depiction of Maisie's growth from childhood sensitivity to maturity and moral consciousness, as well as its scathing condemnation of an amoral adult world.