For its new film season, HOME, Manchester’s centre for contemporary film,
theatre, and art, is presenting Adaptation, a season of films adapted from novels
which were once thought ‘unfilmable’.
“Films, like novels, are often admired for their reach rather than their grasp,” says
Jason Wood, HOME’s Artistic Director: Film and Culture, who has curated the
“Many filmmakers, either through ambition or through sheer hubris, have
struggled to bring to the screen supposedly ‘unfilmable’ novels. The effects can
be uneven, flawed, but equally they can sometimes be admirable and lead the
essence of the novel into hitherto unimagined dimensions.”
The season opens on Sunday 2 February with Hammett, German director Wim
Wenders’ 1982 film about pulp fiction writer Dashiel Hammett, featuring Frederic
Forrest, Peter Boyle, and Marilu Henner, which was the celebrated auteur’s first
American film. Joe Gorres provided the meta source novel.
Mary Harron’s American Psycho, from 2000, adapted from the controversial
novel by Bret Easton Ellis, explores misogyny through the worldview of central
protagonist Patrick Bateman. It is followed by a rare screening of The Saragossa
Manuscript, Polish director Wojciech Has’s three-hour stab at Jan Potocki’s
heavyweight magnum opus, which was a major countercultural favourite during
Belgian director Chantal Akerman’s 2000 La Captive, about an obsessive man
who suspects his girlfriend is bisexual, is a study of paranoia which updated
Marcel Proust’s 1920s novel In Search of Lost Time.
If any novel was ever regarded as beyond cinema’s reach it was James Joyce’s
sprawling Ulysses. Originally banned in Ireland, the film emulated the feat of the
novel by also being removed from the bookshelves. Nonetheless, Joseph Strick’s
1967 film captures a garrulous and gabby 1960s Dublin.
David Cronenberg was in many respects the ideal choice to direct Naked
Lunch, William S. Burroughs’s hallucinatory novel, originally published in 1959.
Released in 1991, the film is now regarded as a cult favourite.
Cronenberg has an estimable track record in bringing difficult material to the screen, having previously directed Crash, which HOME screened in its JG Ballard season in 2016.
Franco-Vietnamese film-maker Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood, released in 2010, is based on the 1987 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami about forbidden love, despair and vinyl records (amongst other things).
Like Paul Auster, Murakami is a difficult author to master but Anh Hung brings his own
distinctive sensibility to the project.
Finally, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was considered unfilmable
primarily because the children’s best-selling story, published in 1963, was made
up of a mere 10 sentences and its accompanying illustrations. Spike Jonze’s
adaptation of Sendak’s book was released in 2009.
CALENDAR OF SCREENINGS
Hammett (12A) – Sun 2 Feb, 18:10
American Psycho (18) – Sat 8 Feb, 18:10
The Saragossa Manuscript (15) – Sun 9 Feb, 17:00
La Captive (15) – Mon 10 Feb, 18:00
Ulysses (15) – Wed 12 Feb, 18:00