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Based on a book

Olivia Snaije By Olivia Snaije Published on May 6, 2016
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From Almodóvar's Julieta, Courtesy of Manolo Pavón/Sony Pictures Classics

By Olivia Snaije

The film making process nearly always begins with the written word. And much of the time—between 30 and 50% according to a recent estimate—a film is an adaptation of a book.

Most classical books in Western literature have been made into films, and Hollywood is rife with examples of films adapted from more contemporary fiction and non-fiction alike, comic books or graphic novels.

The Cannes Film Festival kicks off on May 11th and runs until the 22nd.

Out of the 21 films in competition, at least six have been inspired by the written word, upholding the figure of 30 percent.

Pedro Almodóvar’s film Julieta, is taken from a blend of three short stories, Chance, Soon and Silence, written by the Canadian Nobel prize winner Alice Munro. Almodóvar transposed the setting from Vancouver to Madrid.

Nicole Garcia’s Mal de Pierres (From the Land of the Moon) was adapted from the novel published in 2006 by Italian author Milena Agus.

It's Only the End of the World (Juste la fin du monde) written, edited and directed by Xavier Dolan is based on a 1990 play by the late French actor, director and playwright Jean-Luc Lagarce.

Paul Verhoeven's Elle was adapted from French author Philippe Djian’s novel Oh…, thirty years after his cult novel, 37° 2 le matin (Betty Blue) was made into a film.

Sieranevada, which takes place in Bucarest and not in Spain as one might think, is an adaptation by Cristi Puiu of a poem, The Agathirsoi, by Romanian poet and writer Aurel Rāu.

Last but not least, Sarah Waters’ historical crime novel, Fingersmith, has bridged cultures and countries to be adapted to film by Park Chan-Wook, who changed the title to The Handmaiden and set the story in Korea.

For more on films that became books, the very handy data base, Based on a Book, is a great source of information.


Olivia is a journalist and editor and manages the editorial content for Bookwitty. She is based in Paris.

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