So the other day I was looking up something on IMDB and saw a listing for As I Lay Dying. Now, that is shocking enough, if you have ever read the novel. To me, at least, its stream-of-consciousness format is going to make things mighty difficult to put on screen.
Then add to that the fact that the very-beautiful-to-look at James Franco is starring as Darl Bundren and I really scratch my head (Franco is also directing). I suppose Franco has been trying to branch out beyond his Pineapple Express and rom-com roles. In 2010, he took on the rather daunting challenge of portraying Allen Ginsberg in Howl. The reviews were mixed.
IMDB offers this description of the…plot… of As I Lay Dying: ” it is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family’s quest to honor her wish to be buried in the nearby town of Jefferson.”
That sounds simple enough! A quest, a burial, a family…But for those unfamiliar, here’s a sample of some of Faulkner’s text, which is, if I recall properly, pretty representative of the entire novel:
“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know where he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not. Beyond the unlamped wall I can hear the rain shaping the wagon that is ours, the load that is no longer theirs that felled and sawed it nor yet theirs that bought it and which is not ours either, lie on our wagon though it does, since only the wind and the rain shape it only to Jewel and me, that are not asleep. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is.”
I really enjoyed the novel but I did not find it an especially accessible or easy read. Nor was it meant to be, and that’s fine. But I truly wonder how it can make the jump to film.
So what audience is Franco hoping for? Us? The English Majors of the World? Well, that’s cool, I guess. I hope its target is not the general movie-going public. And I hope the work doesn’t get mangled trying to make the transition to film.
Just for grins, here are a couple of “1-Star Review” comments on the novel from Amazon:
- First off I am baffled at how many people like this book. You know a book is written poorly when you have to go on [online] just to figure out who the characters are and what the hell is going on. Clear is something this book is not. What is with the round about ways of saying things?
- The book was absolutely awful. Not one person had any sensible thoughts. If someone came close to making sense, their thoughts were hard to follow with a different speaker each chapter. All i got out of this book was: don’t cross a river with a coffin, and bananas must be really tasty (the characters probably ate over 10 tons of them)
- How a group of self-absorbed, uncaring nimrods comes to feel such a sense of duty to a dead woman that they would risk crossing a river, that has swelled its banks and swept away the only bridge, in a donkey lead cart is simply beyond me.
- This book and all of Faulkners works are horrible and would not find a publisher if written in 2008. There is not an editor alive that would read past the first chapter of As I lay dying. It is a dud. There is no reason to read it. None. The story is not interesting. Faulkners “stream of consciousness” writing style is not interesting. Nothing about this book is worthwhile, except to say that you’ve read Faulkner. I can say that rereading this book again I did actually feel pain. I felt like crying, it was horrible.
The film is still in production. No release date has yet been set.
Loved the book. I’ll have to check out the movie when it comes out.
Took an entire class on Faulkner in college and it was one of my favorite classes ever.
One must remember that 1920’s back woods mississippians have a spoken language unlike other parts of the country. It is fun to listen to those who cary on the tradition today. It has always been an honor to give proper burial to those close to us. Often most of them back in the day lived several miles from a local cemetary. Travel was required or burial near their home. The movie was filmed in the backwoods of White Oak, Learnered, and climaxes in the dirt streets of present day Canton (Jefferson). It will br an 1920’s version complete with an old dogtrot house in White Oak nestled in the Bienville National Forest. Heater Ridge lies to the east. Here is were the relatives of American Idol 11 contestant Skylar Laine were born and raised. James Franci and his people took a personal look at the hundred year old home with it and fell in love. He did an outstanding job while filming in the South Mississippi heat in late August. The community of White Oak gave him full support. It should be a great movie.
Since As I Lay Dying is my absolute favorite novel, I am apprehensive about how it will translated into film. There is very little dialogue in the novel, as most of the characters have rich inner lives but fail to communicate with each other effectively. Much of the Bundren’s failure to communicate with the spoken word stems from Addie’s distrust of words and the hidden motives of the family members. It is such a rich novel. I hope Franco does it justice.
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