subscriber help

such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

books to movies: ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy

Whenever there’s a movie on the horizon that’s based on a book I’ve never read, I wrestle with the conundrum: Do I read that book before I see the movie, or do I hold off and approach the movie with a completely fresh eye? There’s never a single right answer to that question, but when it came to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.], a simple coincidence convinced me to read. Because I’m a writer, I read a lot of sites about writing and words and books, and at one of these sites, I read something about what constitutes suspense and surprise and a good ending for a story, and — completely unrelated to the upcoming movie — The Road was mentioned. And it intrigued me so much that I figured: Okay, yes, I will read this book now.
I want to say I’m glad I did read it, but glad isn’t quite the word for the harrowing experience of McCarthy’s tale. I hadn’t read anything by McCarthy before, and I found that the starkness of his prose was as haunting as the story itself, and I was simultaneously horrified by his depiction of survival in a postapocalyptic world and totally unable to stop reading. There are ideas about a literally dead world — all the animals are gone; there is no plant life and no sun; the few people left have mostly been forced to resort to cannibalism — that I’ve encountered in other apocalyptic fiction, but never with such power behind them. McCarthy paints images that are so seared into my head just from reading about them that I dread how director John Hillcoat will handle them up on the screen… and since Hillcoat also made the brutal The Proposition, I expect his film to be unbearably compelling.

The Road opens in the U.S. on November 25, and in the U.K. on January 8, 2010.

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/flick/public_html/wptest/wp-content/themes/FlickFilosopher/loop-single.php on line 106
posted in:
books | movie buzz
  • Lisa

    depends if it’s a good writer i’ll read the book first

    if it’s a bad writer I’ll skip the book see the movie (see Da Vinci Code)

    if the book’s too long I’ll see the movie (i have never read a Harry Potter book but I’ll watch the movies)

    If it’s a good writer but a great director/ screenwriter see the film first read the book later

    if it’s a big star/ good actor read the book first

    but generally depends if i have time or not

    might read the book of An Education after I see the film as the film is getting raves (and is meant to be considerably different from the book if you’ve read Lyn Barber’s article about it in The Times)

  • Paul

    I read the book, thought it was fine, but oh good why see it on the big screen? Talk about dreary and messy. I want that at arm’s length, literally, I suppose, in this case. There was a lot in the book that I don’t want to see, not because it was a bad book but because I just don’t want the image in front of me.

  • doa766

    I’m reading this one back to back with the lovely bones so I’m ready for the movies

    these are two depressing novels but great either way

  • doa766

    I´m a little concerned about the director, the only movie know him from it´s “the proposition” and it was OK but nothing special

    also three´s seems to be too much scenes with the wife on the trailer

  • MaryAnn

    I’m reading this one back to back with the lovely bones so I’m ready for the movies

    *Lovely Bones* is next on my books-to-movies list.

  • Nathan

    The Proposition (like Tommy Lee Jones’ Three Burials) was a very McCarthy-esque film without being based on any specific McCarthy work, so I’m not worried at all about the director.

    The trailer, of course, has been cut to appeal to a wide audience and many are going to leave the theatre disappointed after seeing a slow meditative film about death and love (I suppose… I haven’t seen it yet, but the early reviews have it very faithful to the book).

    I see my reading life as being pre-McCarthy and post-McCarthy… anyone who likes The Road should look into his other work. Maybe start off with The Border Trilogy.

  • bracyman

    I’m wondering how they’re going to transfer it. I loved/hated the book (fantastic writing, couldn’t put it down, felt like I’d been dragged over broken glass at the end of it), but so much of it was in the man’s head. Mortensen is good, and I’m betting he’ll be able to capture the obsessive single mindedness of the Man very well. But the dialog is composed of little 20 to 30 second bouts of single sentences.

    I guess they could just overlay scenes of the pair walking through a desolate landscape with overlaid monologues. But I’m tempted to watch the movie with a blindfold on. There are a couple scenes that had me cursing my visual imagination.

  • tomservo

    What charater is Charlize Theron playing? It’s been a couple of years since I read the book, but I don’t remember any other characters except the father and son. BTW, if you liked The Road, you should check out Blood Meridian. Lot’s of McCarthy experts consider it his masterpiece (be forewarned, it’s bleaker and much more brutal than The Road.)

  • bracyman

    I’m guessing she’s his wife. I think all the scenes with her are the the house.

    Man, it’s hard to post stuff like that without spoilers. I think all fans of the book should make a pact not to mention any important parts of the book. Not even the part with the dinosaur battle.

  • bracyman

    Also, I’m midway through the border series at the moment. Basically, I grabbed the list of “books by Cormac McCarthy” at amazon and copy-pasted to the top of my reading list. If it was alphabetical it’s probably near the top.

  • tomservo

    Hopefully, no one mentions Bill Murrays’ cameo.

    Even though McCarthys’ prose is incredibly evocative, I’ve never felt his books were capable of being faithfully adapted to film for that very reason; you lose his language. He can equally describe a West Texas twilight or an apocalyptic slaughter with jaw dropping beauty. No Country was a good movie, yet I kept feeling that no matter how hard the Coens tried, it was still a Coen brothers’ movie (not a bad thing, mind you.)

  • tomservo

    I might add that The Proposition is on my top 5 westerns of all time, so there is hope.

  • stryker1121

    I’m with Paul here…I don’t know if I wanna be blasted by the images from the book on a big screen, if the director does indeed stay close to the source material. (SPOILERS AHEAD, SORTA) Catamites, cannibalism, are things I’m not dying to see realized.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I’ve never felt his books were capable of being faithfully adapted to film for that very reason; you lose his language. He can equally describe a West Texas twilight or an apocalyptic slaughter with jaw dropping beauty.

    This is true – Ian McEwan adaptations sometimes have the same problem, I think. I was reading McCarthy’s Child of God recently and I wondered whether it could be adapted into a film. Well, a good adapter can do anything, but I couldn’t see how that could happen because…


    …what do you do with spare, melancholy prose describing rape, murder, animal torture and necrophilia? If you keep all that in, people would complain that you’d turned the work of a great writer into a slasher gore movie – never mind that it was all in the book, you would get that complaint. If, on the other hand, you decided to cut around it to keep the gracefulness of the book, people would accuse you of chickening out of the challenges the novel sets you. Can’t win.

    *spoilers end*

    It’s one of the reasons why I’m very worried about the occasional rumours concerning a Blood Meridian movie, though the current word that Todd Field is interested in directing it is intriguing.

  • bracyman

    True. I’m thinking that scenes like that seem to have more weight in the memory. They’re a very small, horrific part of the book, but the grimness of the situation seems to put the horror of those scenes on the same keel as the horror inside the heads of the characters. In a more visual medium like a movie, the inside of the characters head is only implied or interpreted, whereas the scene where Bill Murray chews off his own toes to escape the T-Rex would be vividly rendered.

    Yeah, I said “whereas”. I bring the legalese.

  • tomservo

    Todd Field is an interesting choice for Blood Meridian. It’s funny because I read a few years back that John Hillcoat was attached because he had said how Meridian had inspired he and Nick Drake to make The Proposition and that it was the greatest American book of the 20th century, etc..I was hopeful because The Proposition had the right tone for it. But Todd Field seems odd because I can’t see it, visually.

  • Muzz

    I may *Spoil Like Crazy* right here so be warned:

    One big part about The Road’s punch is the shift in perspective at the end. You could make a very good film in every respect out of it, but to lose that sudden abandonment or under-do it would be a real pity and leave it a just a good film. At the same time making sure you’re inside dad’s head for the bulk of the film so that it works (and make it very obvious that suddenly at the end you’re not anymore) would be equally tricky to not over do, if you know what I mean.
    I wish them luck.

    Another thing is, I was chatting with some folks ages ago about some preview of the film particularly around the kid’s age.
    I haven’t got the book handy but the impression I had was that the kid was born just after the disaster and was about five or six in the story itself (his dialogue implies a similar age too). Because of this I find the kid in the film seems too old so far.
    I’m not really worried. It’s its own thing. But does anyone remember better what his age was roughly in the book?

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I think John Hillcoat has said they deliberately made the child a little older in the movie than he is in the book – in the book he is about seven years old and blond, and Hillcoat was worried that might look slightly mawkish on-screen.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This