Movies are so stagnant and formulaic these days it can cause even the most ardent cinemaphile to throw up his or her hands in despair. Remakes of movies that are not even 20 years old, movies based on TV shows, and even movies based on toys, show that Hollywood is relatively brain dead and unable to come up with unique or novel movie ideas.
Well I’m here to help the motion picture industry out. I am going to list three books that represent something different and clever that would make for excellent movie experiences. They are:
3) Johannes Cabal the Necromancer (2009): Jonathan L. Howard’s brilliant spoof of the horror genre pokes good-natured fun at the works of horror legends such as Lovecraft and Stoker while turning the Faust tale on its head. Full of hilarity and occasional pathos, this is an excellent read that would make for a compelling movie.
I would cast New Zealand actor Craig Parker as Johannes, as his flair and majestic screen presence would capture the essence of the novel’s grand anti-hero. In the book’s satirical spirit, it would be funny to have Satan played by reviled political figure, perhaps Dick Cheney or Barack Obama, depending on your particular ideology. Johanne’s brother, who is a good-hearted vampire, could be aptly played by Sam Rockwell.
An obvious choice for directing a movie such as this might be somebody like Tim Burton, but I would like to see Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later fame have a shot at it. I think he could tell the story with enough whimsy and heart to do the book justice.
2) Fathers and Sons (1862): One of the great works of Russian literature, it is surprising that this classic has never been made into film. Ivan Turgenev’s novel of social upheaval and the rise of nihilism continues to delight and inspire readers who appreciate a well-crafted tale.
The main character, Yevgeny Vasilivech Bazarov( or just Bazarov) is a young intellectual who embodies the thinking of the nihilists in mid 1800’s Russia. He would aptly be portrayed by Anton Yelchin, the Leningrad-born actor who might best be know for playing Pavel Chekov in the 2009 film Star Trek.
As far as a director for the movie, I am going to suggest David Cronenberg. I know he is mostly associated with horror and science fiction, but his movies have an edge to them that would be essential to a film adaptation of Fathers and Sons. Many of Cronenberg’s films focus on illness and disease and since Bazarov is a doctor and a crucial point in the story turns upon an illness, I think Cronenberg would be the perfect choice.
1) Fear and Trembling (1843): Soren Kierkagaard’s masterpiece on faith and philosophy might not seem like a book that would translate easily into a movie, but it could with a bit of a change in the structure of the book.
Fear and Trembling looks at the patriarch Abraham and his obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, which God prevents him from doing at the last second. Pseudonym Johannes de silentio goes on to examine the moral and spiritual ramifications of Abraham being willing to murder his own son simply to obey God.
For a movie version, I would like to see Silentio accompany Abraham and Isaac on their journey to Mount Moriah. He could question both Abraham and Isaac as to their feelings of what they are about to do and what they believe is God’s motivation in commanding such a seemingly unthinkable act.
Silentio could be played by Jeremy Irons, an actor who comes across as both refined and erudite. He could capture the questioning awe that Silentio professes for Abraham. Abraham could be played by versatile actor Geoffrey Rush. Rush played, among his many roles, Ephraim the Mossad case officer in the film Munich and was easily believable as a Jew. He would be perfect as the patriarch.
Isaac could be portrayed by Freddie Highmore, popular British actor who appeared in the 2005 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Spiderwick Chronicles. He should play the role as somewhat confused but with unreserved faith in his father.
I think the perfect director for this movie would be Richard Attenborough, who showed by his expert direction of Gandhi and Shadowlands that he knows how to deal with religious topics in films. I am sure Richard could present the complex religious concepts presented in the book in a way that most viewers would be able to understand.
These, then, are my picks for best books to be turned into movies. I hold no hope that any of them ever will be, but movies are often the stuff of dreams and, if you’re going to dream, dream big I always say.