Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian’ Can’t Possibly Become a Movie

The Los Angeles Times is that latest outlet to have a feature article on The Road, the feature film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic novel and before I get to that I would like to address a paragraph within the article that still has me a bit baffled:

“No Country’s” Academy Award-winning producer Scott Rudin and “Little Children” filmmaker Todd Field have been developing a “Blood Meridian” movie, and Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik wants to film “Cities of the Plain,” the last book in McCarthy’s border trilogy. Said Field in explaining McCarthy’s appeal: “His work examines our core, the two faces of violence that co-exist in every savage act — brutal strength of purpose holding hands with a desperate and cowering weakness.”

When last we heard about a possible “Blood Meridian” adaptation it was Ridley Scott telling Eclipse Magazine, “We got it down as a screenplay and the problem is that it is so savage.” Savage is an understatement.

I just finished reading “Blood Meridian” a week ago and there is no chance this book can be brought to the big screen and possibly keep its tone, not in the slightest. In simple terms, the story is set in the early west as a group of men set out on a mission to collect Indian scalps for a profit. Sure, we have seen a bit of scalping on screen (Michael Mann’s Last of the Mohicans comes to mind), but nothing like what is told in “Blood Meridian”.

How about a couple of select passages:

The judge sat with the Apache boy before the fire and it watched everything with dark berry eyes and some of the men played with it and made it laugh and they gave it jerky and it sat chewing and watching gravely the figures that passed above it… Toadvine saw him with the child as he passed with his saddle but when he came back ten minutes later leading his horse the child was dead and the judge had scalped it.

After purchasing some dogs from a young dogvender…

At the farther end the bridge gave onto a small street that ran along the river. Here the Vandiemenlander stood urinating from a stone wall into the water. When he saw the judge commit the dogs from the bridge he drew his pistol and called out.

The dogs disappeared in the foam… The Vandiemenlander raised and cocked the pistol… The pistol bucked in his hand and one of the dogs leaped in the water and he cocked it again and fired again and a pink stain diffused. He cocked and fired the pistol a third time and the other dog also blossomed and sank.

Another line reads, “The way narrowed through rocks and by and by they came to a bush that was hung with dead babies.”

Those are actually very tame examples, but the violence of the story is only a means to an end. I won’t ruin the revelation for those of you that choose to read it, but it is truly an amazing story and it is based on historical events of the 1850s. The violence, in all its brutality, is necessary and it is the reason Scott says the savage nature of the screenplay is the problem. It’s a problem because it can’t be removed and still maintain the integrity of the story.

To my knowledge this is the first time Todd Field has been mentioned in conjunction with the adaptation and it is also the first time I have heard of Andrew Dominik being interested in bringing “Cities of the Plain” to the bigscreen. I am currently taking a break from serious novels and finishing up Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series with the insanely long seventh book, but I have McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses” laying in wait.

“All the Pretty Horses” is the first book in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, which is capped off with “Cities of the Plain”. The big reason to be interested in this project is due to Dominik’s involvement. For those that don’t remember, Dominik wrote and directed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford last year and even though I have not yet read “Cities of the Plain”, Dominik’s style makes the idea of him adapting a McCarthy story for the screen is far too interesting to ignore.

As for the rest of the “LA Times” article involving The Road, the most interesting piece is where it talks about the film’s departure from the book.

The film’s most obvious departure from the book — outside of the elimination of the novel’s vaguely nuclear “long shear of light” that stopped clocks at 1:17 — is its redoubling of the book’s fleeting flashbacks of the Man and his final days with his desperate and suicidal wife (Charlize Theron). Throughout the movie, the filmmakers also have amplified McCarthy’s already vast peril.

The rest of the piece gives more information, but I only skimmed it not wanting to ruin the experience entirely. Sure, I have read the book, and recommend everyone else does as well before seeing the movie, but I would like a little bit of surprise when it comes to seeing it on the big screen. you can check out the complete article for yourself right here.

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