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Novel Ideas

Friday 20 April 2012, 11:36

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

I got involved in a recent Twitter exchange about The Great Gatsby and movie versions of favourite novels. This got me wondering which are the greatest novels never to be filmed - and why?

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Comments

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    Comment number 1.

    The Life of Pi by Yan Martel - you couldn't film it without giving away the ending -

    Also I know that you didn't ask for impending adaptations of favourite novels - but I'm really uneasy about the upcoming film of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas -

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    Comment number 2.

    The Catcher in the Rye. No question. Impossible to film as the interest is entirely in Holden Caulfield's narration of his life.

    Although there is a 'movie' called The Catcher in the Rye made in 2008 by Nigel Tomm (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1206286/). It consists of 75 minutes and 6 seconds of pure blue screen. I'm not counting that.

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    Comment number 3.

    'Junkie' semi-autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs.Like most things with Burroughs its abstract in many respects,but of all his works the most filmable.

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    Comment number 4.

    Hello Dr Mark,

    I know your going to say its already been made, but in my mind John Steinbeck's 'East of Eden' has never truly been made into a film.
    The story is long and at times complex and perhaps this is why we ended up with Elia Kazan's 1955 version starring James Dean.
    It only contains a small reworked section of the whole book.
    If it was made properly the result would be epic.

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    Comment number 5.

    Neuromancer by William Gibson is a good shout. Not filmed because the Matrix got there and ripped it first I'd imagine! Otherwise, Catcher in the Rye is prob gonna be the winner here!

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    Comment number 6.

    Atlas Shrugged. Something of an attempt at the first third was done a year back. It was a total flop. Why has a proper attempt never been made? The plot is long, involves many diversions and whole heap of characters. Moreover, it suffers that great problem of any source material: it's too precious to too many people. No matter how you cut it, it'll offend someone.

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    Comment number 7.

    Agree with 'The Life of Pi', although I remember hearing somewhere that it was going to be made.
    Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy': it's too big, long, deliciously lazy in exploring all those tangents and perfect. Any on-screen Mrs Rupa Mehra would disappoint.

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    Comment number 8.

    For me it's Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy - labyrinthine connections, no real over-arching story, at times obtuse and three separate parts with highly different styles. Would love to see someone attempt to bring it to the screen though.

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    Comment number 9.

    Katherine Dunn's "Geek Love", it's about a traveling circus and the married couple who run it decided to use varies drugs and radioactivity to change the genes of their kids and start a freak show.

    First time I met Terry Gilliam, he said he was interested in adapting it with Johnny Depp (both are big fans of the novel), he said he was struggling to get in contract with Katherine Dunn (recently I've been able forward her contact though a mutual friend) but Tim Burton had the rights for years but he would have made the kid friendly version but Terry would struggle since he can only work in the States for 30 days a month since he denounced his citizenship and would need to be shot in Portland, Oregon (my hometown) which is where it's set and it's a bit too weird for any company to will give somebody a bunch of money for it.

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    Comment number 10.

    At The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, though not for want of trying on the part of Guillermo del Toro.
    It is beyond me why the films like Adam Sandler's "Jack & Jill" and endless parody movies such as "Meet The Spartans" keep getting backed, yet this gem of a story by one of the most influencial sci-fi/horror authors of all time keeps getting shot down!

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    Comment number 11.

    The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart.

    Perhaps the themes have already been well covered by now (eg American Psycho, Intacto etc), but for me this novel still has a lot to say about how we all struggle sometimes to conform to social norms.

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    Comment number 12.

    I'm yet to read a single novel where I'm glad they made a film out of it.
    The beauty of a novel is that you use your own imagination to draw all the imagery and fill in the gaps. A film is someone else's imagination and it is ALWAYS wrong.
    My OCD kicks in every time they change a character, location, line of dialogue, etc. I can tolerate it if a novel is simple condensed; changes freak me out.
    I realise that I'm in the minority here, but I HATED the Lord of the Rings adaptation - even though it's a massive oscar winning success - and all the HP movies; so I'm glad that other great novels haven't been turned into films.

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    Comment number 13.

    "Junkie" would made a really good film.

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    Comment number 14.

    Life of Pi is being made by Ang Lee.

    Best novel never filmed would have to be Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. It's been through plenty of filmmakers but it has never come into existence on screen because trying to capture the brutality of the novel as well as trying to find a narrative through line for a film is one hell of a task. The novel is also pretty much impenetrable it would take a team of writers to hack their way through it and come up with something coherent for the screen. If not film then maybe HBO miniseries but I can't see it happening.

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    Comment number 15.

    If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and Fathers and Sons by Calvino and Turgenev respectively. If.. couldn't be filmed because it's a postmodern experiment of a novel which casts the reader as the central protagonist, includes sections where the writing starts to describe the qualities of the writing you're ostensibly reading, and has a plot that takes so many digressive turns it never returns to the original track. It could be turned into a film, but it would require a total reimagining and a total genius of a filmmaker for even a half-decent result. Fathers and Sons is essentially a Russian rural costume drama with big ideas - I don't really know why it hasn't been filmed yet, other than just because Russian literature doesn't seem to get filmed much in general.

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    Comment number 16.

    Rendevouz with Rama. Morgan Freeman has been trying to get it made since 1999. David Fincher has it on his back-burner at the moment.

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    Comment number 17.

    My suggestion is Wise Children by Angela Carter. It is a fantastic novel, full of life, wit, smut, and general joie de vivre. The characters are bigger than life and ridiculous, but also warm and totally believable. It is full of great set pieces, such as fires, banquets and performances, which could look incredible in the hands of the right director (a mix of Lynne Ramsay and David Lynch?).

    Perhaps it was never filmed because the protagonist Nora Chance (and her twin sister Dora) has such a fantastic narrative voice - funny, literate, Cockney - that would sadly be lost as a film. Or perhaps it's because the book is full of twins (at least five pairs). With limited special effects it could have looked clunky and been impossible to film, but considering the Winklevii in The Social Network, maybe the time has come.

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    Comment number 18.

    Oh and I'm also raging that the charisma vacuums of Gareth Dunderhead and Kristen Stewart are starring in On the Road. Kerouac will be rolling in his grave, rage, etc.

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    Comment number 19.

    Also, 2666 by Roberto Bolano. But there are way too many reasons why that can never be filmed. If Klaus Kinski were still alive, maybe Werner Herzog could have given it a shot.

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    Comment number 20.

    I would say Neuromancer too. Gibson's concept of cyberspace is too ethereal for the screen. Flying through the idea of information as visual geography is a wonderful literary idea that sounds very visual, but doesn't look great when actually thought through. See Lawnmower man.

 

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