Friday, 26 March 2010

The Road is better than films

There's something about Cormac McCarthy's books that make them an easy fit for film. Hardly anything is changed from page to screen. The Coen brothers pretty much copied No Country for Old Men into a screenplay, and now The Road has been given the same treatment. Which is fine by me. The books are so tightly plotted that there's isn't any need to mess around. Watching The Road is like running through the book in your head. 'There's the bit in the house with the - yeah - there's that bit, and when they find all that stuff in the bunker, and when they get to the sea and find the thing'. The man and the boy are still having big problems, with Viggo 'I'm not just Aragorn' Mortensen doing a good job of playing the worried father. And after early trailers made the film look a bit too, well, explodey, it's turned out to be the wonderfully depressing post-apocalyptic bleak treat that we were promised. The camera seems to have a permanent grey filter on it and the pacing is slow enough never be exciting.

The problem is, it didn't get to me in the same way the book did. I'm not sure why. Maybe that's a one-time thing. Maybe I can't really care a second time. Or maybe Cormac McCarthy's words are better than anything anyone can put on screen. It's a film that pays complete respect to it's source material and does everything right. So maybe that's the problem. Books aren't films. Films aren't books. They can't achieve exactly the same thing. In the novel we could get inside their heads a little bit. In the film we're watching them. Not the same. Although if my only complaint is about all film, then there can't be much wrong with it.


  1. I'm not so sure I agree with you that McCarthy's books are designed to be on screen. I think No Country was a rare except of a McCarthy book that was more dialogue than anything. Usually McCarthy instead focuses on moods and states of mind instead of story or plot. I think that's what was missing from The Road, as good as it was, it didn't capture McCarthy's disconnected, disparing prose, and how could it? That's why I can't even expect what will happen with Blood Meridian when it finally makes it's way to the screen. Good review though.

  2. I'll admit I've only read No Country and The Road. Which is a bit shameful.

  3. I'll have to check out "The Road." I liked reading Cormac McCarthy's "All the Pretty Horses" for the same reasons. I like his way with words. One of the things I like about him is that, when a character was looking at a skull on the ground, in one sentence he refered to it as "a brain box" and in the vry next sentence "a cranium." Now, why would he do that?
    I'm glad to hear the film is delightfully bleak, from the trailer I was worried it'd be like a M Night Shyamalan sort of thing.
    And I've been hearing Viggo Mortensen's name around a lot lately. Not that I am complaining! He will forever be, though, in my mind Aragorn Strider, member of the Fellowship of the Ring. :)