Book Week Scotland: Best 21/22 Film Adaptations of Literature
In honour of Book Week Scotland, Short Courses Film Teaching Fellow highlights some of her favourite film adaptations available this autumn and winter.
With the days getting colder and the nights growing longer, it's a great time of year to curl up with a good book or unwind with a fab film.
To tie in with Book Week Scotland (15-21 November), Short Courses Film Teaching Fellow Gosia Bugaj takes a look at some of the most interesting film adaptations coming to either cinemas or streaming services later this year.
From contemporary classics to Shakespeare, without further ado - here are Gosia's top lit-based flicks to watch this winter.
House of Gucci (2021, Ridley Scott)
The film on everybody’s lips just now is Hollywood’s fashion blockbuster, House of Gucci directed by Ridley Scott and starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Al Pacino, Tom Ford and Jeremy Irons. The story focuses on the real-life story of Patrizia Reggiani who was sentenced to 29 years in prison, for arranging the murder of her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, the grandson of the Gucci company founder and the heir to the fabulous fortune.
The film is an adaptation of Sara Gay Forden’s 2000 novel of the same name whose subtitle, A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed, aptly summarises the plot. A long-time fashion business reporter focusing on the Italian fashion industry, Forden worked in Milan in 1985 when Maurizio was murdered.
While researching the book, she reputedly interviewed members of the Gucci family and Patrizia herself along with others close to the business. All to create a true-to-life account of what has happened (“I am a journalist and I deal in facts,” stated the author in one of the interviews). As a result, her meticulously researched page-turner provides a gripping insight into the family who were key players in helping to shape 20th century style, whilst richly narrating the successes and scandals that accompanied its rise.
The film is scheduled for theatrical release on 26 November and later will be available to stream on Paramount + (coming to the UK in 2022).
If this biographical film inspires you to hone your journalistic skills, our 'Writing for Publication: Freelance Journalism' online course starts in January.
The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021, Joel Coen)
Shakespeare’s plays (and Macbeth in particular) are amongst the most frequently adapted works of literature. The story of power, greed and ambition - of madness and cruelty has been performed many times in theatre, opera and on the big screen.
In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen gives a new lease of life to the 400-year-old Scottish Play. It is the director’s first solo venture, this time without his brother, Ethan, with whom he made 18 films including Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) and No Country for the Old Men (2007).
Otherworldly, claustrophobic and surreal, Coen’s version of Macbeth differs significantly from the films he has made with his brother. It is told mostly in powerful, black and white visuals, stripping Shakespeare’s familiar story back to its essence. Stark and austere, the production is driven by a power-house duo of Hollywood stars, Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is scheduled for a limited cinema release at the end of December 2021. From mid-January 2022 it will be available on Apple TV + streaming service.
Always wanted to pen a play of your own? Caroline Dunford's 10-week online course 'Write that Play' will help you make a start.
Passing (2021, Rebecca Hall)
Another monochrome release this year is Passing, but this time shades of grey are used as a narrative tool in a story where skin tone is central.
Set in the late 1920s, Passing focuses on the reunion of Irene and Claire – excellently played by Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson - mixed race childhood friends who ‘pass’ as white in a racially segregated society.
The director depicts the issues surrounding such ‘passing’ in a way that chimes with issues prevalent today. Sensual and elegant, Passing is the directorial debut of Rebecca Hall, actress turned director, with frequent nods to classic Hollywood films. At times, it comes close to a theatre play and manages to capture the tension felt between the two women by paying attention to the subtlest of details.
The film is a faithful adaptation of a 1929 novel under the same title written by Nella Larsen. Larsen was one of the key writers of the Harlem Renaissance, a revival of African American culture in the 1920s and 1930. The novels of this mixed-race author explore issues of racial and social identity.
Passing was shown in cinemas in October 2021 and is now available on Netflix.
To view our full selection of literature, theatre and film courses (starting in January), visit the links below.