Back in college, I remember sitting in the university library watching film versions of To the Lighthouse and Ulysses after having read them in class. And I remember thinking, “This is terrible. Why did they even try?” Woolf’s novel unfolds almost entirely in the characters’ brains, and Joyce’s novel is not only cerebral, but was also largely an experiment in form. You would think that would put them lower on the list for adaptation. And neither of them had much of a conventional plot, either.
The novel I’m reading right now, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of fiction of the second half of the 20th century, and word has recently been released that it will become a film. As much as this news excites me, it also fills me with doubt and apprehension.
Midnight’s Children isn’t like Ulysses or To the Lighthouse in a structure or narrative sense. It does have a plot, and there are even a few scenes that read sort of like a screenplay. The book is similar to those other two, though, in scope and ambition. It will be a task. According to The Guardian, Rushdie will collaborate on the script with the very able director Deepa Mehta (of Oscar-nominated “Water“), so that’s a plus. But much of the achievement of this book, from what I’ve read of it, is in the way it’s written, with an energy that is difficult to translate coherently into the film medium. It’s also very long, so abridgements will be necessary. I could go on…
We can rest our minds for a good while though. The movie won’t start filming until 2010. I actually hope that they don’t try to follow the book too closely. For this movie, I think the more fun they can have with it, the better.