What does it mean to call a book ‘unfilmable’?

1082Books by authors like Neil Gaiman and Gabriel García Márquez have been dismissed as too difficult to adapt. With Netflix offering both time and cash, is that true anymore?:

’It’s remarkable how many “unfilmable” books have been, well, filmed. With this week’s news that Neil Gaiman’s sprawling comic-book series The Sandman has been acquired by Netflix, fans have been excited, if tentative, no doubt remembering the long history of attempts to adapt the 75-issue story that was often dismissed as too difficult to get on screen.

As Gaiman once said: “I’d rather see no Sandman movie made than a bad Sandman movie.” Multiple scripts were written throughout the 1990s, there was a TV show in 2010, a film in 2013, an attempted rewrite of that film in 2016 – but none of this means that Netflix’s latest literary project is doomed to fail.

For “unfilmable” is often just code for “we tried and it didn’t happen”, an excuse for all the films trapped in development hell, such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Bradley Cooper was once lined up to play a hunky Lucifer), and the long-awaited adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. “Unfilmable” can also mean “we tried and did a terrible job”. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is not unfilmable, but the 2017 take starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey might make you wish it was. Or the maddening works of William Faulkner, most recently put on screen by actor James Franco, who took time off from insisting he can write novels to ruin someone else’s by directing, adapting and starring in As I Lay Dying in 2013 and The Sound and the Fury in 2015. Or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: three films and three terrible decisions came in 2016 when reviews for part one (“sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal” declared Rolling Stone) did nothing to dissuade the great minds behind it, who turned their backs on the free-market to supply two sequels in the face of no demand. (Part two: “The film’s excruciating unwatchability transcends politics”; part three: “Cut-rate to the point of incoherence.”) And unfilmable can even apply to books that prove to be brilliant on camera: the new TV show of Joseph Heller’s Catch–22, the Wachowski sisters’ take on David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2015 film of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.…’

Via The Guardian