Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chapter 3

At long last, I'm in familiar territory. The story has taken a turn to a formula I know well: Everyman gets swept away by events. It brings Hitchcock to mind, though this book predates when he hit his stride with The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps.

Mr. Van Schoonbeke draws our hero in closer, bringing him into a conversation with rich and powerful friends. We see him squirm as he remains largely silent instead of making a foolish effort to hold his own. He is introduced by way of mentioning his company. Those present are left to assume the rest, which leads them not to infer that he is a clerk.

The title comes from this chapter, as a Dutch friend, "In cheese," is mentioned at the close.

As I read this, I got to thinking about how it would work as a film. My recommendations:

1. Length: Let it be as long or as short as it needs to be. The book is already cinematic. What happened to Dr. Seuss' work should be instructive. He wrote great little books that made great little cartoons. Once lengthy back stories were added to make feature films, his work became very tedious.

2. Narration: Use a narrator. One problem with the art world is that it's a forum for those with no professed orthodoxy to invent their own or slavishly follow the -ism of the month. A major problem with cinema today is, "Don't tell me, show me." While Murnau made it work in The Last Laugh, it will not work every time. A book's "Uncomfortable 10 minute silence," does not need to be a 10 minute scene. It is worth noting that film noir moved fast because of skillful narration.

3. Subtitles or dubbing? The combination for export prints should be what I saw on an apparently rare print of Diary of a Country Priest. I have seen the film a few times, but I only ran across this print once. The narration was dubbed into English. The dialog was left in French and subtitled. In this way, reading was kept to a minimum, while original voices were preserved.

I read a few things about Kaas, and I saw that it has been a movie at least twice. Still, I think the Matena version is worth filming. If it doesn't work in Belgium, it might still be a good way to introduce the story to other countries.

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