Cannes: Films adapted from books

The Cannes Film Festival is currently holding its 70th award show which previews and awards films of all genres from all around the world (17 – 29 May 2017). I’ve been looking at the Official Selection, more specifically the films classified under “In Competition” – these twenty films compete for the grand prize: the Palme d’Or. I’ve discovered that no less than 5 of these 20 films are (loosely) based on books. So let’s take a look at them!

Krotkaya (A Gentle Creature) is a Ukrainian drama, mystery film by Sergei Loznitsa, selected for the 2017 Palme d’Or. It is about a Russian woman living in a small village whose husband is in jail. One day, she receives a parcel that she’d sent to her incarcerated husband, “return to sender”. She has no idea why, so she decides to go the remote jail to figure out what’s happened. She arrives in a prison town where she fights against the system to find out what’s happened with her husband, on a quest for justice. It was inspired by the 1876 short story A Gentle Creature by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This story is about a young girl who marries a pawn broker but the unhappy marriage leads to her suicide. Personally, I don’t see many similarities between the two – but since I haven’t seen the film, it’s hard to judge. I understand it’s more about the harrowing atmosphere and Dostoyevskian elements of the film.

Le Redoutable is a French film, also selected for the 2017 Palme d’Or. This biography about Jean-Luc Godard was directed by Michel Hazanavicius. In 1966, Godard meets Anne Wiazemsky, on the set of Au hasard Balthazar and they fall in love despite the seventeen-year difference. A year later, Godard is shooting La Chinoise with Anne in the lead role, but the director starts questioning himself when it receives negative reviews. The May 1968 further impact this and he turns from a star director into someone making experimental political films. It’s based on Un an après, the autobiographical novel by Anne Wiazemsky, which focusses on the Parisian student revolt of May 1968 and how it impacted their lives.

The Beguiled is an American drama, directed by Sofia Coppola (which she won the Best Director award for at Cannes 2017). It’s set at a Virginia girls school during the American Civil War. One of the students finds a wounded Union soldier in the woods close by. He is nursed back to health and all of the women fall in love with him and vie for his attention. The teacher is especially enamoured with him and they get close. However, after the soldier is caught having sex with a teenage student, he gets hurt again and they have to amputate his leg. The situation becomes untenable, and the students and principal decide to kill him. The film stars Nicole Kidman (principal), Kirsten Dunst (teacher) and Elle Fanning (student) opposite Collin Farrell (soldier) and is based on The Beguiled novel by Thomas Cullinan, published in 1966.

Wonderstruck is another American film at Cannes 2017. Todd Haynes directed this drama that takes place in 1927 and 1977 simultaneously. Rose’s part is filmed in black and white as it takes place in the twenties. She’s deaf, obsessed with an actress from the silent movies, and she discovers New York mostly in images and not in words. Her adventures are interspersed with Ben’s adventures in the big city in the seventies as he searches for his missing father after his mother’s death. The screenplay was written by Brian Selznick, who also wrote the original book the film’s based on called Wonderstruck. In the book, Rose’s deafness is translated into the story through pictures and drawings, while’s Ben’s New York is beautifully described in words.

And finally, You Were Never Really Here is a British-French-American thriller by Lynne Ramsay. It stars Joacquin Phoenix in the main role as a former Marine and ex-FBI agent who is haunted by all he has seen. He now makes a living saving young girls from the sex trade. When a New York politician hires him to get his teenage daughter out of a brothel, he is thrown in the middle of corruption, power and vengeance. And when they threaten his only loved one, his morals and rules are off the table and he will kill to get to the truth. Joacquin Phoenix won Best Actor and Lynne Ramsay won Best Screenplay at Cannes. The film’s based on Jonathan AmesYou Were Never Really Here novella of only 47 pages which came out in 2013.

I haven’t read any of these books or seen any of the movies (obviously, since most of them still need to come out), but I have added a few on my to-read list. How about you?

Happy reading,

Loes M.

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