Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Shadow of the Wind - The Movie
This post is the creative birth child of a desperate The Shadow of the Wind fan calling for a movie production that will bring to life Julian Carax and Daniel Sempere; calling for a visual masterpiece that will stir images of a Gothic Barcelona stifled in Francoism.
Please indulge my frivolities and please do not scorn me if I cast someone that you disagree with. So without further ado, let's get this show on the road!
I had heard that The Others' director Pedro Amenabar was a contender for The Shadow of the Wind but my personal choice is for visionary Jean Pierre Jeunet. To understand why I favor Jeunet, one has to look at the standout features of The Shadow of the Wind and how they compare favorably with Jeunet's past films.
To begin the novel is overshadowed by an ominous atmosphere which is both the result of the Spanish Civil war's aftermath and a tragic mystery centering around an author's life. The main character, Daniel, grows up in an almost surreal community replete with dark realities. If you have seen City of Lost Children, you will understand that Jeunet is no stranger to nightmarish realms.
Coupled with this shadowy setting, is the Sempere bookshop and home, which sees many visitors and in which many heart warming exchanges between characters take place. This sense of a gathered community, one that brings with it some humor, much caricature and always much heart, resounds throughout the novel and is a clear reminder of what Jeunet has and can achieve. It recalls the delightful Brasserie gatherings in the masterpiece, Amelie just as it recalls the band of eccentric social outcasts who form a family in Micmacs.
And then last but not least, we have the core of the novel; the slow, intensely paced and extremely well-written unraveling of its mystery which involves quite a number of characters. Again, I cannot think of a more adept director than Jeunet who, as evidenced by A Very Long Engagement does an excellent job at juggling a complex historical mystery together with judicious use of flashbacks, while still keeping the audience's fascination for the many and varied characters, who due to cinema's nature can only ever possess limited screen time. For this same reason, I am also adamant that Jeunet should prepare The Shadow of the Wind's film adaptation. During the screenwriting exercise, he may find it enriching to collaborate with the book's author, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, who is also a former screenwriter.
So that was the heavy part. Now, for the acting cast!
Bella's enormous doe-like eyes, her delicate grooming and fragile beauty are perfect for the role of the tragically vain and blind Clara. Heathcote may not agree to nudity scenes which is unfortunate but her youthful porcelain skin is a real production value for this role.
I have complete trust in Colin Farrell to deliver what is the most exciting, endearing and entertaining character in the whole novel. He is believable as an ex spy and someone who would survive much of the brutality that Fermin survives. Fermin is a tad too skinny to be embodied by Farrell but method acting might remedy this detail.
Perhaps as a result of his apparent redundancy to the whole mystery and to the novel's plot, Mr Sempere was the most touching and kindest character in the story. His entire meaning was contained in the endless love and patience he gave his son. I think Antonio Banderas, especially through his familiar accented voice, has the ability to project much heart and damn it, it is his duty as a fellow Spaniard to Zafón, that he fill this noble role.
Maybe because I've seen him play a vampire freak too many times and because his beautiful face would serve the novel's tragedy interests only too well (if you know what I mean), I am unable to shake off the idea that James Patterson should play the role of fated author, Julian Carax. I think Nuria Montfort's complete adulation would also seem believable given Patterson's charming looks. Finally I like the simmering intensity that Patterson is able to project on screen and the fact that he can look both menacing and innocent. I think the production values are evident but he would need to dye his hair black.
As with many novels (but not all), I was not particularly attached to the main character who I mainly conceived as a vehicle for experiencing this amazing story. Still the lead cast needs to be likable and draw audiences. I chose James Franco because of his audience appeal and because I did enjoy his performance in the latest Oz movie. But mostly I chose him because 1. he is believable as the son of Antonio Banderas which I've cast as Mr Sempere and 2. I can imagine-as desired by the novel-that someone might find him slightly resembling of Pattinson whom I've previously cast as Carax. Overall his dark physique works well but he is still someone I can imagine being punched around several times in a pathetic way. Finally he would be believable as a coward who eventually redeems himself.
Mark Ruffalo vs Jude Law
Infinitely wise, self-sacrificing, idealistic, placing friendship before love, Sigmund Freud fan and downright too-good-to-be-true character...yet he was one of my favorite characters in the novel. His motives are so beautiful that one wants to cry or just scream, "are-you-for-real?" The pathos that this character generates needs to be handled with great care. We need a naturalistic delivery. Someone who can move us and create tear-jerking moments while remaining seemingly aloof and collected. Both Mark Ruffalo and Jude Law would be amazing. They would each lend themselves well to the role of wasted-tuberculosis-sufferer-burning-the-hours-to-raise-money-for-a-friend, but Ruffalo looks more Spanish and has earned philanthropic credentials from his latest role in Now You See Me.
Why? Firstly because she is French, like the character but also because Jeunet made her a gamine celebrity through Amelie and hopefully he can un-typecast her with this more daring role. And I think Tautou needs to be pushed a little, to go beyond her safe roles which she did in Dirty Pretty Things. Somewhat.
There is a highly dramatic scene in The Shadow of the Wind that represents not only the culmination of a mystery's resolution but also, all that is cruel about a misogynistic, patriarchal society and one that is also still recovering from the horrors and senselessness of the Spanish civil war. This scene needs to be portrayed by someone whose suffering would leave us gutted. Someone whose doll like beauty and short screen time would remove nothing from the attachment we feel towards her when she suffers her tragic fate. I have thought of her youthful features (Penelope is barely 17), her almond hair and the expert acting that this requires and have settled on Anne Hathaway. I know that Hathaway is much older but I think she might be able to pull it off with her hair lightened and worn loose. She also looks Spanish. Hathaway impeccably portrayed Fantine's suffering in Les Miserables and will no doubt shine as Penelope.
A striking red head with green eyes and beautiful skin. Someone who can also inspire fear and who one can imagine flirting with both older professors and danger. Someone feisty and sharp. I think Emma Stone works well here.
A villain makes a film and needs to be well thought out. He requires stellar acting. Ever since I saw Argentinian actor, Ricardo Darín in The Secret in their Eyes, I have been under his spell. He would work splendidly as the charismatic yet sadistic and vengeful cop, Fumero. Darín's mature presence and astute gaze lend themselves well to the calculating Fumero. Darín is also believable as a dangerous law officer who has risen in the ranks to become both a feared and respected member of society.
If you've seen Jamon, Jamon, Don't Move and To Rome with Love, you would know that no one does trashy foul mouth better than La Cruz. That she has the advantage of understanding Spanish cultural nuances to properly caricature this fascinating character is no understatement. No matter that she is strikingly beautiful, Cruz will no doubt successfully portray this social wannabe creature who spawns the devil himself. The villain's mother is so pivotal to a story that only a strong actress will do. Besides, it is only right that one of Spain's most beautiful women should become this devil's mother.
It is only fair, given his titillating exposition as Silva in the latest Bond, that Javier Bardem should be given a chance to dress as he pleases from time to time. But seriously, I like the contrast between Bardem's threatening build à la No Country For Old Men, and the fragile, sensitive disposition of Frederico, the watchmaker. I also think this casting subverts the ostensibly macho, garlic-chewing and misogynistic role that Bardem took on years ago in Spain's glorious cinematic export, Jamon, Jamon. Finally, I think it would work well with Bardem's often high pitched voice and his ability to affect a sophisticated mannerism.
There are several characters who I've not yet cast, including the bitter Jorge Aldaya, his wealthy parents, Nuria Montfort and Julian's own father. Please feel free to leave comments about your casting thoughts for these, along with any suggestions you may have for the already cast characters.
While this has been a fictitious exercise, I am still entertaining the grand hopes that The Shadow of the Wind will be shot some day. Zafón you, who it has been said, have no intention of adapting your masterpiece for screen, I hope you understand my love for this book and my equal love of cinema. A cinematic adaptation of The Shadow of the Wind would not purport to be better-than or complementary to the book. It is an art in itself, a joy of creation and a challenge to master. The rendering of historical Barcelona would be an artistic director's dream. Who would not enjoy working on such a masterpiece? I am certain that many actors would be overjoyed to interpret one of your fascinating characters. Why deprive them of that pleasure? And why rob millions of people who actively prefer cinema to reading, or who cannot read for that matter, of the pleasure of seeing this story on screen?