Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some Observations

I wonder what inspired Dick Matena to make Kaas into a graphic novel. Was it the movies? It's hard to say, never having seen any of them. The main character and his brother look exactly like pictures of Elsschot himself at different stages of his life. I'm guessing it wasn't the movies.

It's hard to say what moves an artist. I suppose Matena was born to draw, and he was able to visualize Kaas as a graphic novel.

That being said, it's a great achievement. This is not a visual story at all. Most of the action takes place inside Frans' head. He thinks over social situations and wonders what is on the minds of others. There is almost no action. Still, as I wrote about Chapter 6, the reactions and expressions of the letter reader fit remarkably well. The drawings bring Antwerp in the 30s alive with great detail. Matena's other artistic achievement is that he knows when to stop drawing. His visuals help carry the story forward, but they are never cluttered.
Because this book is relatively short, there is a lot of room for back stories. Again, I hope anyone who adapts the graphic novel to the cinema resists the temptation to fill in details as to the achievement gap between the brothers and why the doctor seems to be a bachelor. Any such additions would make the story drag.
It seems that for Frans, being Flemish adds weight to his almost hapless existence. As the book begins, he works for an English company. The big boss is a Francophone. The cheese business happens in Dutch, but it's across the border in Amsterdam. Although it was a big modern city, Elsschot's Antwerp was a backwater.

No comments:

Post a Comment