May 19, 2014
Jane Campion may direct a film adaptation of ‘The Flamethrowers’
by Emma Aylor
In a recent interview with Andrew Pulver for the Guardian, Jane Campion admitted “to being on the verge of closing a deal to shoot an adaptation of Rachel Kushner‘s underground art scene novel The Flamethrowers for indie super-producer Scott Rudin.”
No other remarks or direct quotations about the potential film were used in the interview, but the implications are exciting for one of the most acclaimed books of last year.
Campion has a history of making pellucid, literary films, and has based past work on New Zealand poet Janet Frame (An Angel at My Table, 1990), Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady (1996), and the romance of John Keats and Fanny Brawne (Bright Star, 2009). The breadth and strength of Campion’s past work bode well for adapting Kushner’s novel, which spans 20th-century Italy as well as the New York art world of the 1970s.
Campion also seems capable of inhabiting the departure from “standard psychologizing” in The Flamethrowers, an idea Kushner expressed in her interview with Jonathan Lee for Guernica:
I don’t relate to standard psychologizing in novels. I don’t really believe that the backstory is the story you need. And I don’t believe it’s more like life to get it—the buildup of “character” through psychological and family history, the whole idea of “knowing what the character wants.” People in real life so often do not know what they want. People trick themselves, lie to themselves, fool themselves. It’s called survival, and self-mythology.
In addition to her work as president of the Cannes film festival jury, Campion’s Guardian profile also focused on gender questions in film. Campion said, “Film-making is not about whether you’re a man or a woman; it’s about sensitivity and hard work and really loving what you do. But women are going to tell different stories—there would be many more stories in the world if women were making more films.”
This sentiment, in addition to Campion’s history of dealing “with the spiritual, sexual, and aesthetic desires of women across different eras,” as Noel Murray explained on The Dissolve, fits perfectly with Kushner’s Flamethrowers. Murray goes further:
Put it this way: The Flamethrowers already sounds like the novelization of a Jane Campion film. This seems like a deal that has to be made.
Emma Aylor is a former Melville House intern.