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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What fine-art painting would you like to see adapted as a film?

Steve Simels writes a regular column at Box Office Magazine, and over the holiday weekend he offered a possible new avenue for a Hollywood intent on borrowing from other mediums for its stories: fine art.

And Simels had a particular painting in mind for adaptation: “genius-of-the-macabre artist Henry Fuseli’s incredible The Nightmare,” dating from 1785:

Simels threw down the gauntet:

Now go and make a movie — maybe a horror flick, maybe not — with even a fraction of the painting’s overwhelmingly creepy atmosphere and surprising psychological depth.

Go on — I dare you.

Which prompts the question: What fine-art painting would you like to see adapted as a film?

We’ve already seen Girl with a Pearl Earring… but who would play the Mona Lisa?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • RyanT

    Oh wow. I haven’t seen that painting since my Art History class in high school. I remember absolutely being captivated by it.

    With that said, how about Picasso’s “Guernica?” Though I’d probably steer clear of Tim Burton for this one. I mean imagine a Burton/Picasso collab? Wow.

  • Ken

    Van Gogh’s The Church at Auvers. Oh wait…

  • Kate

    Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”.

    Or really any Hopper painting.

  • Brian

    Heironymus Bosch and Terry Gilliam were made for each other.

  • Mark

    Anything by Hieronymus Bosch would be a blast, especially in 3D.

    Or maybe something from the Pre-Raphaelites, as Karen Gillan has given me a bit of a thing for red hair.

  • LaSargenta

    Gotta confess, although lots of reviewers panned it when it came out, I think I’ve already had my movie from painting: Carravagio.

    Otherwise, hmmmm…Shipwreck of the Minotaur, by JMW Turner. Except, I doubt any film could capture the way Turner painted seas and sky.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I love Caravaggio – it’s up there with Love is the Devil and Vincent and Theo in the tiny canon of great movies about painters. A Gilliam Bosch film would be great too – I think Gilliam actually cited Bosch and Breugel as influences on his Jabberwocky.

    Possible ideas of my own? Durer’s Knight, Death and Devil could make good sport for Guillermo del Toro – the snake-haired Death even looks like something from Pan’s Labyrinth. And Max Ernst’s apocalyptic World War II-era paintings like The Eye of Silence and The Temptation of St. Anthony would be really intense on screen.

    I’d love for Constable to get some love too. His work has been devalued a bit by being so continually reproduced, but I remember vividly studying paintings like The Hay Wain and Stonehenge as a child and being mesmerised by the level of detail and technique that went into them.

  • Chris

    Anything by Dali. With CGI, it could be done, though good luck having a coherent story…

  • actually, Ken Russel did make that movie in 1986: “Gothic”. If I remember correctly, Mary Shelley was the lead character and the images of the Fuseli painting appeared in her dream sequence.

  • nyjm

    One of my favorite paintings is the Arnofili Potrait by Jan Van Eycke – if purely for its avant-garde use of mise-en-abime. I’d love to see someone adapt this self-reflective bit of art, much akin to Spike Jonze’s Adaptation.

  • I’ll admit I have picked up book series based on painting by Frank Frazetta… *^_^*

  • Rob

    Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon the Island of La Grande Jatte. In other words, I’d love to see Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George turned into a film.

  • bats :[

    Anything painted on black velvet.
    Directed by David Lynch.

  • Boingo

    Going off on a slight tangent here-forgive me.
    Re: Today’s question.
    I pondered the idea,and reflected on a French artist-
    Mobius aka Jean Giraud. He influenced a slew of
    sci-fi illustrators from the 80’s.I remember reading
    Ridley Scott mentioning that his art director pay
    attention to that particular artist prior to production
    of “Blade Runner.” I saw Moebius’s “stamp,” especially in
    the noodle shop scene.


    I looked at Youtube and was disappointed as the
    animated sample showed so much was lost (again, due
    to working with a team of production artists, and
    economics-my guess).Color, forms in anatomy,
    backgounds, scale of line-all sucky (too much generic computer-like “grading” kicked the personality out the door.

    There’s a book-“The Shape of Time (Kubler)” that
    influenced my penchant for trying to notice”Prime
    Objects,” which are basically untraceable, highly original works of art-as if appearing out of nowhere, and influencing a slew of imitators.IMO.Moebius is
    an example in his vision.

    My hope is too see an animated version of Moebius that
    does the artist justice. 2D would be great.

    Never count an “old fart” out!

  • Boingo
  • Fuggle

    Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa.

    …As long as it was in the hands of someone who could play it as a a human drama, perhaps with a touch of dark humor (or a lot). And as long as it was in the hands of someone who didn’t treat it as a horror movie. Maybe Terry Gilliam reigning the Python in, but definitely not Eli Roth, so to speak.

  • Bill

    Saturn Devouring His Son. I also like Kate’s suggestion — Nighthawks.

  • Raphael’s The School of Athens. The film could be called The League of Extraordinary Philosophers.

  • Also, I’d love to see a film that adapts several of Walton Ford’s giant watercolors. At first glance they just seem like Audubon-type wildlife paintings. Look again.

  • Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. Though I suspect any adaptation would pale next to the various stories I’ve associated with that painting in my mind.

    Velazquez’s Las Meninas and Goya’s El Sueno de Razon Produce Monstros are other possibilities.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    I really do think that this should be how we bring back traditional 2d animation; living paintings.

    There’s been some beautiful work done with experimental films, such as through Canada’s NFB, but these are often short projects on a shoestring budget, and the experimental aspect tends to extend to the narrative as well as the artistic.

    It would have been fascinating to see what “Destino” would have looked like; the collboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. Similarly, it would be amazing if Disney tried a “Fantasia” style film focussing on bringing classical art to life rather than classical music.

  • Lis Riba

    Well, Queen adapted Richard Dadd’s “The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke” into a brilliant song.


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