Here's something I'd like to see people stop doing: claiming that a novel is unfilmable because of the prose. This is an old conversational ploy that is intended to make the speaker appear superior and more knowledgeable about not only film, but literature, and the process of adaptation, than the person to whom he or she is speaking, particularly if the listener has expressed some enthusiasm for the film under discussion. The statement also betrays an astonishing ignorance.
I bring this up now because I'm stumbling across this particular bit of foolishness again and again in connection with John Hillcoat's film version of Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road (for the record, I am not personally aware of any film critics who've gone this route in relation to Hillcoat's film, but I've seen it in comments section of blogs and other websites all across this great internet). The specific adaptability of The Road is irrelevent, because the very idea -- that a book cannot be adapted to film because of the author's prose style -- is bullshit almost across the board. Guess what? Nobody's prose gets "adapted" to the screen. What gets adapted, faithfully or not, is character, story, theme, mood, atmosphere, dialogue. It is impossible to adapt prose to film -- a filmmaker can depict what is being described, but he can't depict the description itself.
Adding to the silliness of the idea is that The Road is written in a style far more straightforward than anything else McCarthy has written, outside of No Country for Old Men. Here's an example of The Road's style:
The following day they crossed the river by a narrow iron bridge and entered an old mill town. They went through the wooden houses but they found nothing. A man sat on a porch in his coveralls dead for years. He looked a straw man set out to announce some holiday. They went down the long dark wall of the mill, the windows bricked up. The fine black soot raced along the street before them.
What can't be filmed from that is the deliberately antiquated phrasing of "He looked a straw man...", but you can sure as hell shoot the image described. Talent, or the lack thereof, dictates the rest.
So Cormac McCarthy's prose won't be adapted by John Hillcoat, or anybody else. You know another writer whose prose will never make it to the big screen? Dan Brown. And Stephen King. And James Joyce. And Charles Dickens. And Vladimir Nabokov. And Leo Tolstoy. And Alain Robbe-Grillet. Although Joyce is maybe a bad example, because, for instance, Ulysses (never mind Finnegans Wake) might actually be unfilmable, at least as a whole, since, in that case, many large sections of that novel contains prose that is so baroque that it obscures action to the point of obliteration. Since this is part of the experience of Ulysses, putting the entirety of it on-screen might be impossible. Well, no. Improbable. I'm sticking with the less concrete word, because I could very well be proven wrong some day.
Oh, also, happy Thanksgiving, everybody!