The result was a movie that, while not a literal enacting of Banks' book, evoked the novel's emotional tone of grief and moral ambiguity. The same could be said for "Affliction," Paul Schrader's adaptation of another Banks novel, which opens in Baltimore Friday. Like Egoyan, Schrader switched the focus of Banks' original somewhat. The story concerns two adult brothers coping with the legacy of physical and emotional abuse at their father's hand.
In the movie, the point of view is from the older brother (played by Nick Nolte), whereas in the novel the younger brother is more prominent. Like Egoyan, Schrader has created a movie every bit as powerful as the material that inspired it.
Banks considers himself "charmed" to have had two successful screen adaptations of his work. Both filmmakers, he said, "got right to the heart of the matter. That's why I feel so supportive of both films. The thematic concerns of 'Affliction' the book are the same concerns as 'Affliction' the movie, and it's the same with 'The Sweet Hereafter.' It's hard to do, and it rarely happens." (Banks has three more adaptations of his books in the works, including "The Book of Jamaica," which will be directed by Bruno Baretto.)
Then there are books that exist not in the minds of their characters, but in their words and actions. Such are the books of Elmore Leonard, whose punchy, dialogue-driven thrillers have met with mixed success on screen, but which have definitely hit their stride recently with the efforts of Scott Frank.
Frank, who wrote the screenplay for the 1995 movie "Get Shorty" and was just nominated for his first Oscar for his adaptation of "Out of Sight," has been credited for avoiding the pitfalls that have bedeviled other Leonard adapters.
Rather than focus on the books' plot, he has preserved the characters' zippy dialogue and decidedly oddball personae. The results have been screen efforts that may not have hewed exactly to Leonard's plot lines ("Out of Sight" the movie has an entirely different ending than the book), but that honor in full what makes Leonard and characters like Jack Foley and Chili Palmer so beloved.
Something the success stories of 1998 have in common is an author, screenwriter and director who were on the same page -- literally and figuratively. When filmmakers share the author's vision, and when an author respects the fact that film is ultimately a director's medium, Banks says, a writer can happily cede control. "If you're working with an Egoyan, a Schrader or a Barreto, they're not just guys in suits in a committee. They're auteur filmmakers."
Pub Date: 02/14/99