Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Screwtape Letters

File this under the worst movie news I've heard all week: Walden Media (the folks who brought you the skin deep The Chronicles of Narnia) will be adapting one of my favorite books of all time C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. It's about a devil instructing his apprentice in how to corrupt a human soul. To my way of thinking there are just some books that should never, not in a million years, be visualized. This is one of them.

Letters is an epistolary novel and those are immediately troublesome as far as adaptations go (there are exceptions of course. There always are). In a film version they will have to actually dramatize events you're only hearing about in the letters of the novel. These events are told through a skewed perspective, the demon's. Part of the joy and the strength of the novel is reading the words and reinterpreting them. A movie will also have to visualize hell, senior and junior demons and the like and immediately rob the powers of suggestion of the book --it's not big on visual descriptions, being a very conceptual thing. This kind of thing can only end one way: corruption and over simplification of the brilliant source material. I'm horrified that the Lewis estate would even consider selling the rights to this.


Michael Parsons said...

I felt that way when I heard M. Night Shouldntwritescripts was going to tackle 'Life of Pi'. This would be a very difficult book to film and keep it interesting. But there is a light now that Jean-Pierre Jeunet is doing it. Could be promising as he always keeps things visually interesting.

Start really panicing once they announce a director and cast.

J.D. said...

Okay, so...

It's agreed. Walden Media loves messing with our heads.

Nat, so this is one of your favorite books? I've never actually heard of it. I'm not a "reader".

One of my favorite books, Bridge to Terabithia, is coming out 2/16. The first thing I said when I saw the trailer:

"Dear god, they messed it up."

I feel your sadness.

Walden Media is bad. They actually did a good job adapting Because of Winn-Dixie and Holes, and I thought The Chronic-WHAT?!!-les of Narnia was pretty good.

But... Bridge to Terabithia is not TCON. It's actually a fairly dramatic piece of pre-adolescent brilliance. It's the only book to ever make me cry.

Although the author, Katherine Paterson, actually admitted she subconsciencely name Terabithia after an island off the coast of Narnia, it's not. Terabithia (here) is an imagined kingdom of Jessie and Aaron (AnnaSophia Robb, Because of Winn-Dixie and Josh Hutcherson Zathura) to escape their troubles in the real world.

My alarm should have set off when I heard they were filming in New Zealand...

It has Zooey Deschanel, so it better be good!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope. PLEASE GOD!!!!!! GIVE ME THIS ONE THING!!!!!!!!! I'll forgive Mom for putting me in the psych ward!! [coughs] Moving on...

SamuraiFrog said...

I've read Screwtape and heard it as an audio book (there's a very good version read by John Cleese), but that's probably about as far as I would want to see it drift to other media. A movie? What is the goddamn point?

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Screwtape on film? Just exactly what kind of drugs are these people on? I'm not sure if I want the address of their dealer to partake or massacre. Either option seems a whole lot better than a movie Screwtape.

It's a wonderful book, but almost entirely dependant on the reader's own images and perspective shifts to work. At best I can't imagine it being anything other than patronising and at worst ... well, I don't even want to think about it.

Anonymous said...

Screwtape would take a master screenwriter to adapt. I'm thinking top-form Charlie Kaufman might be able to make it work. Almost certainly, a direct adaptation or mostly direct adaptation could never work. The screenwriter would have to take a LOT of artistic license.

Anonymous said...

If they're going to adapt one of Lewis' 'grown-up' works, they'd be far better off with the Silent Planet trilogy or even The Great Divorce, and even then they'd need to have a monstrously inventive director and screenwriter on board.

Walden couldn't even get Narnia right and that series was practically an instruction manual on how to film itself - I shudder to think what they will do with Screwtape.

I feel your pain, Nat.