Filming Faulkner

Because I wrote my senior thesis and MA thesis on various Faulkner novels (and because I still love teaching pretty much anything by Faulkner when I get the chance), I’ve been curious for years to see the 1959 Martin Ritt adaptation of The Sound and the Fury.  Now, thanks to the power of YouTube–the film isn’t currently available on DVD or VHS–and the similar curiosity of Michael Berube, I’ve managed to  see it (or at least the first eight minutes).  Like Michael, I’d heard it was a poor adaptation.  I knew that Yul Brenner played Benjy and that the male Quentin Compson was rewritten as “Uncle Howard,” someone much older than Quentin, a southern gentleman addicted to his gin and tonics.

Until I read Michael’s post, I wasn’t prepared for the 1950s-style jazzy score or the transformation of the younger, female Quentin into the film’s heroine. Or her voice-over narration and bus rides back from Memphis.  I’m not necessarily opposed to film adaptations of novels, even those that radically reinterpret the “original” text, but this is more than a bad reading of the novel; it’s something far more surreal.  I’m tempted to go back and watch the whole thing later when I’m not pressed for time, just to marvel in the strangess of this attempt to convey something–the story? the spirit? a few characters?–from Faulkner’s novel.


  1. Lance Mannion Said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 11:10 am

    Never even knew there *was* a movie. Just found out there’s a movie of Intruder in the Dust too. Apparently there are remakes of both in the works. The one I’ve always wanted to see is Sanctuary with Lee Remick and Yves Montand. The Long Hot Summer has always felt more like an adaptation of something by Tennessee Williams to me. I have fond memories of The Reivers with Steve McQueen. And Tommy Lee Jones was scary as Ab Snopes in the PBS short film based on Barn Burning.

  2. Chuck Said,

    November 21, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

    Yes, The Long Hot Summer is only a loose adaptation of one section of Faulkner, although it is a lot of fun as a smoldering southern melodrama. And I actually quite like the Steve McQueen version of The Rievers, which I watched during a brief fascination with him. Like you, I’d love to see the Sanctuary adaptation.

    I can’t imagine how they’ll “remake” The Sound and the Fury.

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