Call me by your adaptation…
After seeing ‘Call me by Your Name’ (twice!), I had to read the book to see whether Mr Ivory deserved his Oscar. This is how it fell.
Let me start out by saying that I LOVED Call me by Your Name.
Loved loved loved.
Not without flaw, but what piece of art is ever perfect?
I’m even listening to the sublime soundtrack now as I write— check out my review of the film here to get you up to speed about how I felt about it.
And, I was stoked when James Ivory picked up an Oscar for best adapted screenplay from a really competitive field, even though I was only about halfway through reading André Aciman’s original work at the time so could only base my happiness on the fact that I liked what I had seen from what I had read…and that I just wanted the film to pick up something for what it’s cast and crew brought to the screen.
After the Oscars fell the way they did, I threw myself into the remaining half of the novel, keen to fully assess whether Ivory deserved the plaudits.
The novel itself is beautifully written, although it’s flaw for me is a slight disconnect in that it isn’t through Elio’s eyes and soul that we view the story — at least not the young Elio. The narrative is too sophisticated, even for the highly intelligent 17-year-old, filled with language with which only an adult narrator could paint the story.
And this would probably be my only real criticism of the book.
When we consider how Ivory shifted it from prose to screenplay, in the main he did a masterly job, and, on balance, deserved the Oscar.
I wonder, though, for those who have also read the novel, and who maybe even read it prior to the film, how they feel about some of the more detailed forensic choices.
For example, the removal of the seemingly innocuous side-story around Vimini. I won’t ruin this novel plot point for those who might still be thinking of reading the book, but, at least for me, this was integral to the story for any number of reasons, and could easily have been retained.
Similarly, although sadly understandably to make it more acceptable to a mainstream audience, was the softening of the sexual awakening of Elio.
Sure, they managed to get across the idea of the horny teen whose hormones are raging and who will screw almost anything (including a peach…) to get off, but this is a shallow interpretation of Elio’s sexuality. The book covers it in much more detailed fashion, and IMHO the movie is somewhat the lesser for it, even if as a result less confronting for a wider audience.
I would also question the transposition of the final days of Elio and Oliver to something more of a provincial large Italian town than the metropolis of Rome, and with it the loss of a world that opened up to Elio in those last days. This may have been for the sake of bringing the running time down, and removing seemingly peripheral storyline for the sake of focussing on the couple’s last few days, but again it occurred at the expense of what I see as essential aspects of the narrative.
And then…the epilogue, which isn’t an epilogue at all but rather an entirely new film, at least according to news reports filtering out about the possibility.
The entire novel was worth reading just for its masterful denouement.
I had actually finished the novel before I heard these reports, so can say I was actually CRUSHED not to see Ivory somehow bring across what might be the most poignant chapter of the book — a series of jumps through time to see where both Elio and Oliver end up in their respective, yet still-joined lives.
Not an epilogue at all — rather, a crushing, heart-wrenching, deliriously beautiful journey through the years illustrating the enduring nature of love.
Granted, pretty tricky to show in the dying moments of a film, but a massive absence in the context of the main story.
And a loss to cinema goers in missing out on seeing how in just the final 25 pages or so everything about the preceding 225 pages is drawn into sharp focus and resolved…or not.
I was close to tears.
In fact, I was in tears!
For me, the entire novel was worth reading just for its masterful denouement.
A little resentment and anger followed the tears as I clocked what had been dropped from the novel to realise a neat filmic ending. Again, I don’t want to ruin it for those who’ve not read the novel, but at the very least there is one more face-to-face moment the Elio and Oliver share that was dropped from the story, modified into a phone call, and the film was the lesser for it.
Having said that, admittedly the ending of the film also brought me to tears, so Ivory did the filmic version of the story no wrong by wrapping it up the way he did…and for those who haven’t and won’t ever read the novel, it will in all likelihood be satisfying.
I feel…unsure about what I read of the likely sequel. It will take a lot of very careful writing, hopefully with Aciman on board, to ensure they get it right. The way it is already being framed makes sense…
“…a 1990-set plot against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis and following the former lovers around the world. He added that he planned to have Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer return to play their characters, allowing them to age in real time, similar to Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy.”
And there is no reason why it might not be wonderful, particularly if the writing team find a way to be true to Aciman’s own ‘sequel’ as per the final chapter of the novel.
I, for one, will see the Call me by your name…again (or whatever they might call it — take a read of some LOLZ via Time about what it might be called!), and hope madly truly deeply that it is as wonderful as its predecessor.