Toronto Standard: Part 2: Exclusive Interview with Sarah GadonCast Interview Sarah Gadon
We posted part 1 of this interview, written by Eli Yarhi, when it appeared (link below.)
This is part two of an exclusive one-on-one interview with Toronto actor Sarah Gadon.
In the first part of our discussion, I asked Sarah Gadon to shed some light on the manner in which Cosmopolis was brought from book to screen.
In this section, we talk about literary adaptation in general, discussing both the limits and opportunities that translating words to cinema creates.
You often hear that reading a book before seeing a film screws with your mind. You’re able to fill in details that are either poorly sketched in the film, or not elucidated at all. Which I think judges the merits of a movie and misses its singularity. How does this apply to Cosmopolis?
Sarah Gadon: Cinema is its own semiotic language, and you can’t really adapt literature because it’s two completely different mediums presenting a narrative in different ways. Cosmopolis the novel is in the film, for sure, but it’s going to be a different beast. You’re telling the story with images instead of words. DeLillo’s writing is dense. The way his characters think about themselves inside their own heads is something that you can’t necessarily express on film. Film is different from literature and I think people looking to find a connection will always be disappointed. It’s like comparing a photograph to a painting.
|Still from Official Film Site|
Yeah, and book lovers get so ornery when their favourites are brought to screen. But decisions have to be made when you’re translating. And I think that’s a good word, because it’s more than adaptation, you’re changing it into something that speaks another language.
SG: Yeah. If you look at the adaptation of The Cider House Rules, it’s direct. I don’t think Cosmopolis is a direct adaptation. The ideas in that book are so abstract. How do you adapt symbolism? How do you adapt a concept like capitalism? Of course you can continue these ideas onto screen and use the structure from which DeLillo chooses to explore them. But it’s going to be a different exploration.
Of course. I often think that the best book to film adaptations make those decisions. Some are straight up, yet they take a particular interpretation of a book and run with it. Coppola turned The Godfather into an allegory for capitalism. I read the book in high school and—
SG: Did you?
Yeah, I loved the movie that much. But in the movie, Coppola took his interpretation of a pulpy genre story and made it something different in its message.
SG: What I find people critique with Cosmopolis are the things that are closest to the book. For example, people say that the dialogue is theatrical and dense. But it’s word-for-word the dialogue in the book. I don’t understand.
I’ll admit that I get lost sometimes when I read DeLillo’s dialogue. I understand what’s being said, but I lose place of who’s saying what—the voices blend together. Translating that to film might fill in some blanks…
SG: I love the way his characters speak. I think it’s hilarious. I think there’s so much humour in Cosmopolis. There has to be a willingness to see that humour. I think David pulls that out, more so than what I think exists on the page. But when you hear two people saying these lines, you see how funny it can be.