Great minds think alike Vol. 3 - Two more film adaptations making the stories "their own"
“I’m passionate about adaptations. To throw myself into someone else’s work energises me, as I’m keen on defending the author’s world” – Nicolas Bary’s The Scapegoat
Nicolas Bary is stepping into a great legacy with his adaptation The Scapegoat (2013), which is based on the highly popular series of books on the Malaussène Saga by French author Daniel Pennac, consisting of six novels. The Scapegoat is based on the first book, Au Bonheur des Ogres (1985), a crime novel that sold over 1.5 million copies in France alone. The series revolves around Benjamin Malaussène and his entourage of siblings, of which he is the eldest. Malaussène is a “professional scapegoat” who works in a department store, attending to customer complaints.
For Bary, The Scapegoat is his second film adaptation after Trouble at Timpetill (orig. Les enfants de Timpelbach, 2008), based on the first children’s book by German-American author Henry Winterfeld, which was written in 1937 and went by the original German title Timpetill – Die Stadt ohne Eltern (loosely translated as “Timpetill – The City without Parents”). The director explains his enthusiasm for adaptations as follows: “I’m passionate about adaptations. To throw myself into someone else’s work energises me, as I’m keen on defending the author’s world.”
As for The Scapegoat, the then only 25-year-old Bary approached Pennac outside a theatre to declare his passion for bringing the novel to the big screen: “The world is contemporary, alive, rich, with the frenzy of a baroque and dynamic Paris. I could completely identify myself with this tale, which is both playful and rousing.”
For the author of The Scapegoat, the adaptation of his work seemed impossible to make: “I never thought that it would be possible to adapt the Malaussène saga; moreover, I wasn’t too fond of the idea in general,” states Pennac – but meeting Nicolas Bary made him rethink his stance: “Pictures as a means of expression come naturally to Nicolas Bary. […] In fact, my Malaussène became his, and his Malaussène suits me perfectly.”
With a cast consisting of Raphaël Personnaz in the role of Benjamin Malaussène and further famous players, such as Oscar nominee and César winner Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) and actor-director Emir Kusturica (the director of Arizona Dream, 1992), The Scapegoat is part of the French Comedies collection, available from 1 September.
“I immediately found myself immersed in the world of this comic book, to the point where I actually had the feeling that it could have been written by me” - Carine Tardieu’s The Dandelions
For the adaptation of The Dandelions from the novel with the French title Du vent dans mes mollets (2009) – which was already adapted for a comic book by the graphic artist Mam'zelle Rouge in 2010 – two very similar great minds thinking alike found each other: the author and later co-screenwriter Raphaële Moussafir and director-screenwriter Carine Tardieu. The two met at a book fair: “I told [Raphaële Moussafir] how much I liked Du vent dans mes mollets. She responded: ‘Ah! So, you're Carine Tardieu? I met some producers who want to adapt my novel, and they mentioned your name,” recounts Tardieu of their first encounter.
And so, together, Tardieu and Moussafir embarked on the journey of adapting the story of nine-year-old Rachel (Juliette Gombert). Smothered by her mother’s (Agnès Jaoui) love and growing up with her cynical father (Denis Podalydès) and fragile grandmother (Judith Magre), she only really starts to embrace life not at her psychiatrist's – played by Isabella Rossellini – but with a new girl who steps into her life, who goes by the name of Valérie (Anna Lemarchand).
As one of the closest relationships in terms of the adaptation process within our three volumes of film adaptations on Walk This Way, this close partnership reveals the main difficulty of adapting someone else’s work: making it your own, as Tardieu remarks: “It’s [Raphaële Moussafir]’s story, a story that she has been carrying around with her for years; I couldn’t just shut the door on her after the screenplay was finished.” However, both continuously being present at the shoot turned out to be equally unsettling. An agreement was reached between the author and the director, granting Tardieu time alone on set, until it became her film and thereby made her first encounter with the comic book come true: “I immediately found myself immersed in the world of this comic book, to the point where I actually had the feeling that it could have been written by me.”
Both adaptations constitute a fitting conclusion to our adaptations trilogy of directors making a film their own in an audiovisual language; they are a personal vision, but a vision in tune with the original creators nonetheless.
The Dandelions is showing from 1 September within our French Comedies catalogue, which also features many more comedies just waiting to be discovered here.
9. november 2015, af Cineuropa