Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Birdsong film edges ever closer.

Sebastian Faulks ever-popular 1993 novel Birdsong has had a bit of a troublesome time in making its inevitable appearance on the big screen. The rights were sold not long after the book was published but still we have not yet seen a finished product. There's been plenty of aborted attempts, but the Birdsong film has found it as difficult to be made as other troubled adaptations such as Watchmen and Don Quixote.

This did, however, look set to end when Rupert Wyatt, director of the excellent Brit prison escape flick The Escapist took the reigns. Michael Fassbender and Paddy Considine became attached to the project and there was even talk of the cast beginning to flesh out. But things have fallen eerily silent. Birdsong's IMDb page no longer lists the director or stars as being involved with the project, however it does still list a tentative release date of 2012. This seems optimistic.

As this excellent Independent article documents, this could be yet another one of Birdsong's false starts. However, progress is being made in other mediums. In September, a stage adaptation of the novel began a run at the Comedy Theatre in London, starring Ben Barnes (of Prince Caspian fame) as the novel's protagonist Stephen Wraysford. Reviews have been fairly mixed, but if the novel can be adapted for the stage, there is hope it can be adapted for the screen.

It will be a challenge to make, there is no question about that. To shift from the erotically charged first 100 pages of the novel to the horrors of the First World War requires no small amount of subtlety. Some of the book will of course have to be trimmed to make it manageable to movie audiences, but which bits? Will the producers, for instance, choose to skip over the story of Elizabeth Benson, the 1970's woman looking for clues about her grandfather's time in the war?

Then there is the war itself. The intensity and fear of the Battle of the Somme, described in Faulks book could well be adapted into an epic portrait of war, in the right hands, but the book is extremely graphic in its detail. Will this be toned down for today's audiences? If so, will the film be able to do justice to the horrors of war and the sacrifices made?

It's been many years since a great First World War film was made. A good adaptation of Birdsong could not only be a fine story, but could serve as intense portrait of what people went through in the war. It will make it to the big screen one day, but for the moment we are still waiting.

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