The tough climate for film financing in Spain is causing producers to turn to literary adaptations, especially works which have already proven popular with audiences and critics. Indeed, there are currently more than a dozen films based on novels in advanced stages of production in Spain.
The current batch includes director Isabel Coixet's My Life Without Me, based on a short story by Nanci Kincaid, in post-production at the Almodovar brothers' El Deseo; David Trueba's Soldiers Of Salamina (Soldados De Salamina), based on the best-selling novel by Javier Cercas, in post-production at Lolafilms; a retelling of Cervantes' classic Don Quixote, from director Manuel Gutierrez Aragon; George Sluizer's The Stone Raft (La Balsa De Piedra), from the novel by Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago; Anton Reixas' The Carpenter's Pencil (El Lapiz Del Carpintero), based on the novel by Manuel Rivas; The Cannibal's Daughter (La Hija Del Canibal), directed by Antonio Serrano and from the book by Rosa Montero; and Gerardo Herrero's $6.6m multi-territory co-production Galindez, based on a novel by Manuel Vazquez Montalban, in pre-production.
"The fact that we have a well-received novel definitely helped us get our project moving," says Jose Antonio Romero, head of Rioja Films, backers of Rosana (working title), an adaptation of the novel La Flaqueza Del Bolchevique by Lorenzo Silva that is set to begin shooting in September. Romero positioned the book as the keystone of a massive marketing campaign, sending out 500 copies as a gift to industry, media and even banking representatives last Christmas. Although he admits he took a risk - "They could compare the novel to the script" - he says the strategy is paying off now in negotiations with potential backers who are not only aware of the project but in many cases have already read the book.
Romero suggests that recognition of Flaqueza, a runner-up in the country's prestigious Nadal Prize, helps balance the film's relatively little-known cast, led by Aida Folch (The Shanghai Spell [El Embrujo De Shanghai]) and Luis Tosar (Flowers From Another World), and first-time feature director Manuel Martin Cuenca, maker of the award-winning documentary The Cuban Game. It has also been timely, he says, that another film based on a novel by the same author - The Impatient Alchemist (El Alquimista Impaciente) - is currently going strong at the domestic box office with good critical reviews.
However, the novel route is by no means a guarantee of success at the box office, nor does it ensure international interest. Kevin Williams, head of international sales outfit Kevin Williams Associates (KWA) observes " [It] depends on whether the novel has sold internationally or the writer is known internationally. Basically, if the film is good, it will sell, and if it is bad, it won't."
Williams handled international sales on the adaptation of popular Canary Islands-set novel Mararia, a film which did not rouse much interest at home or abroad, proving his adage that "there are no hard and fast rules".
Two other recent examples of high-profile Spanish film adaptations which did not click with audiences - or, for that matter, critics - despite the popularity and excellent critical reception for their source material, include Bigas Luna's Sound Of The Sea (Son De Mar), based on Manuel Vicent's prize-winning 1999 novel, and Fernando Trueba's The Shanghai Spell, based on the novel by Juan Marse.