The misconception that adaptations to other media have to follow to the letter what has already been embodied in the original work. In addition to showing a lack of imagination, he shows little knowledge of the characteristics of the different artistic media, which are still vehicles of expression for those who make them. It can never be as simple as getting from A to B, because otherwise you wouldn’t need people to do it.
At the same time, there are no golden rules for writing. Even gurus like Robert McKee will say that formulas are worth little if you don’t have a minimum intrigue for wanting to tell from within. All possible avenues can be explored, which is more or less what Charlie Kaufman attempted when he got into the eggplant of adapt an impossible book. And from there comes his best work: ‘Adaptation. The orchid thief.
It has to be a movie about flowers
Nicolas Cage does one of his best works (or two of his best works) in this new maze of the mind introduced in an intriguing satire on the very nature of adaptation that can be enjoyed for rent. An Earthly Odyssey directed by Spike Jonze where Kaufman comes to the conclusion that adapting ‘The Orchid Thief’ is impossible, so he makes a movie on how to make a ‘The Orchid Thief’ movie.
Cage is Charlie Kaufman, who is in one of his numerous life crises noticing his aging and physical deterioration while he is in the task of making Susan Orlean’s novel into a film script. Of course, it can’t be a regular movie like the ones Hollywood makes, throwaway, because the book isn’t like that. It is a book about flowers. Yes, it’s about flowers. But… is it really about flowers? Can you make a movie that is about nothing but flowers?
Cage’s character finds himself trapped in these less than epic crossroads that really mean a whole world to him, because he is obsessed with the elevated version of his profession. At the same time, his brother Donald, a projection of the part of Kaufman who wishes he could make the entertaining Hollywood movies he despises, takes his first steps in the world of scriptwriting without too much trouble and following guidelines set out in books such as McKee, who has a guest appearance in this feature.
‘Adaptation. The orchid thief’: sublime self-parody
The funny and manic double acting de Cage is in perfect harmony with a film that always finds an entertaining way to sell the most extreme part of how the movie sausage is made. Leaping from the meta-cinematic with the recreation of the filming of ‘How to be John Malkovich‘ to a dreamlike plot of intrigue with Orlean herself, played by Meryl Streep, having a dangerous affair while investigating… flowers.
With insightful irony, Kaufman’s script knows how to put thoughts whispered by the mind at full volume. Tossing around writer’s block through self-parody for having writer’s block is a succulent idea that he manages to develop into a sublimely intelligent film, with many layers worth unraveling with different interpretations and repeated viewings. Really is an excellent workdirect to the podium of each one of those involved.
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