Wednesday 18 September 2019

From page to screen: the film success of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels

Two of the author’s books have been adapted into big-screen movies with great success.

Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley
Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley

By Kerri-Ann Roper and Kate Whiting

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels Never Let Me Go and The Remains Of The Day were adapted for the big screen with great success.

Based on the 1989 book, the film version of The Remains Of The Day was made in 1993 and starred Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best actor for Sir Anthony and best actress for Thompson.

London Film Festival – Never Let Me Go Photocall

Sir Anthony played the main character of the book, butler Mr Stevens, who was named James Stevens in the film.

Talking during a BBC Radio 4 book club session about why he chose a butler as the protagonist, Ishiguro said the decision was not based on knowing any butlers in real life.

He explained: “I came to the butler via a completely different route. I was really looking for a metaphor for various things and it struck me that a butler would be the figure I needed to express two sets of ideas: one about political power, the relationship of ordinary people to political power, and the other about keeping your emotions very buttoned down.

“And it seemed to me the mythical figure of the butler, I had no idea what real butlers were like, but a myth exists about what an English butler is like that is understood all around the world and I wanted to use that figure to stand for these things.”

Classic Brit Awards – London

In 2005, the Japanese-born author, who moved to the UK aged five, penned another literary success, Never Let Me Go.

Six years later, the Booker Prize-nominated novel was adapted into a film that drew in a host of young British talent – Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield – who have all gone on to become big stars.

The screenplay was written by Ishiguro’s friend and author of The Beach, Alex Garland.

The book is a story about love and friendship, set in a Britain where clones are bred to be organ donors.

Knightley spoke to the Press Association about the film at the time, saying: “One of my friends said, ‘It sums up our generation’, which I find a bleak prospect indeed. Obviously once I’d said yes to the role, I read the book and thought it was completely astonishing.”

The BFI London Film Festival Opening Gala – Never Let Me Go Screening

Ishiguro said he had been “trying to look at the positive side of human nature”.

He told the Press Association: “I wasn’t interested in a story about the triumph of slaves over a cruel system, I was interested in trying to find something that paralleled our natural human lifespan – we can’t really escape from the fact we’re mortal.”

“The question was, what’s important to human beings when time is running out?

“I was trying to look at the positive side of human nature, and things that become important are friendship and love.”

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