Five Novels That May Be Unfilmable–and the Artists We Would Like to See Try

#3 Perelandra

Perelandra is not C. S. Lewis’s best novel. Nor would it seem to be the one that presents the greatest number of formal challenges. Given the way so many faith-minded people make nudity in film a line in the sand regarding what is permissible and what isn’t, I can’t imagine a faithful adaptation that would not be shunned by its target audience. Would the director try to make some Austin Powers-like concessions to hide that which the narrative claims is not shameful?

Beyond the nudity issue, this is a novel that is almost all talk. It has less actual story than The Screwtape Letters, which isn’t even, properly speaking, a novel. (And about which one hears, periodically, rumblings about potential film versions.) How would the tempter be filmed? The space travel framework is creaky but could be easily updated without much harm. Finding actors who would be capable of convincingly representing unfallen humanoids (much less in green skin paint) would be a stretch. I would think this would have to be an animated film, but that suggests other problems does it not? Would not going the animated route subtly reinforce that the underlying mythology is not, cannot be, real?

Were he still alive, I could imagine Frédéric Back doing a lovely animated version that, like The Man Who Planted Trees, could serve as much as moving illustrations as an actual film. Among the living? Jane Campion maybe? Bright Star has an otherworldly quality to it, and it is also about words and their power. She has certainly shown herself capable of eliciting startlingly effective performance from actors who appear to be existing on a separate plane from the world around them.

Next Page: What exactly is the story, anyway?

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