The Away From Her director talks to Peter Bowen about the film's long journey from story to screen.
While making films seems second nature for Sarah Polley - she started acting at age six and making short films in her teens - she took more than six years to write and direct her first feature, Away From Her. Her journey began in 1999 when, having just wrapped shooting Hal Hartley's No Such Thing with Julie Christie, she found Alice Munro's The Bear Came Over The Mountain in The New Yorker.
"I read the story," remembers Polley, "and it had all these echoes of where I had been and I couldn't help imagining Julie in it."
Polley spent the next few years trying to shake this experience. She told herself the material was not right for her. Munro was one of her favourite writers, partly because her elegant, haunting prose seemed to escape possible adaptation. Also the tale of an elderly couple breaking up as the wife develops Alzheimer's disease seemed far from the experiences of a vibrant twentysomething movie actress.
But, as Polley recalls, "I'd been spending a lot of time with my grandmother in a retirement home and I became interested in exploring this environment."
Having cast Christie from the moment she read Munro's story - in her mind at least - Polley used Christie's voice as she wrote. While Polley worried Munro's complex poetic language could come off as maudlin in dialogue, she did not worry about the film's melodrama. "Some people may have seen this as about Alzheimer's," says Polley, "but it never was for me. This was always a story about memory, and the trajectory of a really long relationship."
The much-feted director of The Diving Bell And The Butterfly tells Jeremy Kay his film is about "somethingness".
Julian Schnabel is enjoying his international publicity tour for The Diving Bell And The Butterfly. "Usually it's like Gulliver's Travels," the artist-turned-film-maker says. "You see a different response to your films depending on where you are in the world. But on this movie, the response has been the same everywhere."
Which is to say, admiring and appreciative. The film tells the story of French magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who succumbs to near-total paralysis after a stroke and dictates his autobiography by blinking his eye. Schnabel wanted to stay true to the book's mother tongue and used his French learned from his days as a chef to adapt the screenplay with Ronald Harwood.
"The movie is to do with somethingness," Schnabel says. "It's encouraging. There have been many doctors and nurses that have asked for the movie to be played in the hospital where they work because they felt their patients could be encouraged by the communication within the story.
"There's a level of compassion and love that people are capable of that you see in the film. You see how people help this man (played by Mathieu Amalric) and if only everybody could be like this - there's so much aggression and violence which we are in the midst of."
Janusz Kaminski's glorious cinematography allows the story to wash over the viewer, which was exactly what Schnabel wanted.
"I always loved that about Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock's pictures - I love paddling into the water and having a giant wave fall over me. The screen can become like a piece of sculpture falling on you, so you have a real experience rather than a cerebral experience."
The Kite Runner director meets Liza Foreman.
"When I read The Kite Runner, I felt Khaled Hosseini gave a voice to people who have been voiceless and faceless for so long," says director Marc Forster on bringing the book to the screen. The first Afghan novel to be published in English, The Kite Runner tells the story of two young boys growing up in the same wealthy household in Kabul in the 1970s. Years later, after one has been killed by the Taliban, it is revealed they were brothers.
"I love the line that, 'There is a way to be good again,'" explains Forster, speaking about the main character, whose cowardly acts lead inadvertently to the death of his courageous and loyal brother.
In the film, the father and legitimate son settle in California where the father works selflessly in a gas station to pay for his son's education. It is a story that resonates with Forster's own. "My father lost everything," he says, "(and that was) when we first looked at each other and became a family. It taught me material things don't matter. You look at so many places in the world that have no food and water and where emotional needs are not met for children. We in the West forget these things and focus on what isn't important."
With much of Kabul destroyed, Forster used a region of China to stand in for the Kabul of yesteryear. "(Afghan) people felt it was a love letter to Afghanistan," he says. "They saw it and said it looked like home. They were so happy there was a Hollywood movie that didn't cast parts in English, and gave a face other than a villain or terrorist to their part of the world."