Movie theater.  From the written word to the screen, the great leap in adaptations

Movie theater. From the written word to the screen, the great leap in adaptations

THIS YEAR, The three musketeers, On the black paths, Love and the forests, Consent attracted millions of spectators to theaters. What do they have in common? They are adapted from French-speaking literary works, like one in five films produced in France. A dynamic segment of the film industry, adaptations account for a third of tickets purchased and average more admissions than other films in France.

Even if it shows a clear increase in the volume of works (+ 28% between 2015 and 2021), “this sector is almost as old as the 7th art”, recalls Daniel Benoin, president of the Cinéroman festival. “Until the end of the Second World War, 19th century plays and novels were indeed adapted for the screen in large numbers. The works of Balzac, Zola, Stendhal, Dumas and Hugo constituted formidable bases for the emerging cinema, because they developed chronological and realistic stories. » But if the great classics remain regularly revisited, today adapters are especially attracted by novels published after 2000. Thus, Michel Bussi, Tatiana de Rosnay and even Pierre Lemaitre are currently the most transposed.

Another argument in favor of adaptation: relying on a literary work reassures cinema professionals for whom financing a film always represents a significant risk-taking. However, according to the president of Cinéroman, “in a film, access to the interiority of the characters is more limited and certain staging biases can disappoint the audience won over by the book”. Because, “even if it reassures financiers, a good novel does not necessarily make a good film,” adds Laetitia Colombani. The writer, whose first novel The braid (2017) sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, and a film was made from it which was released at the end of November. First a director for fifteen years, she belongs to a current of writer-filmmakers – Philippe Claudel, Marc Dugain, Emmanuel Carrère, Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, David Foenkinos – who, since the 2000s, have been keen to direct the films themselves. adaptation of their works, like Pagnol, Guitry and Cocteau in their time.

Editors and producers

Aware of the multiple economic benefits brought by adaptations, the publishing world has organized itself to meet the demands of the film industry. “Practices and professions have evolved, through the creation of dedicated centers among publishers and by increased attention from producers on the rights to be obtained,” specifies the CNL study. Since 2008, 76 million euros in adaptation rights have been redistributed by the Civil Society of French-language Publishers.

Contrary to popular belief, “Cinema and television screens therefore do not kill the written word,” notes Cécile Lacque, the director of studies at the CNL. Two thirds of books see their sales increase in the twelve months following the release of their adaptation.

Goodbye up there , by Pierre Lemaitre, is a good example. The release of the film in 2017 led to a rebound in sales of the novel of 186% in one year.

From images to pages

New illustration of this porosity of the two cultural industries, cinema and publishing? Publishers are now launching a new genre of books inspired by cinematographic works.

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