Visions of ‘The Road’

Posted by · 2:32 am · April 25th, 2009

Out there was the grey beach with the slow combers rolling dull and leaden and the distant sound of it. Like the desolation of some alien sea breaking on the shores of a world unheard of. Out on the tidal flats lay a tanker half careened. Beyond that the ocean vast and cold and shifting heavily like a slowly heaving vat of slag and then the grey squall line of ash.

No adaptation this year is as dependent on matters of location and production design as John Hillcoat’s take on Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” a novel in which landscape is the narrative’s dominant antagonist. If the film can’t visually evoke McCarthy’s tangible sense of the familiar made alien through desolation, then it’s dead in the water.

On the other hand, the sparsity of McCarthy’s prose leaves a lot of room of visual interpretation — contrary to what some have suggested, the novel is a highly cinematic work. So I’m intrigued by this gallery of conceptual “style frames” for the film, a collection of paintings, sketches and photo montages that give a vivid sense of the story world Hillcoat and his team have come up with. And on this evidence, at least, it looks to me like they’ve nailed it:

The Road

A couple more of my favourites after the cut. Check out the full collection here.

The Road

The Road

→ 8 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

8 responses so far

  • 1 4-25-2009 at 8:06 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    Shit, that last one is sublime. I would say that seeing these photos makes me believe that it has a shot at a nod for Art Direction, but if Children of Men couldn’t even pull one off, then I doubt any despairing dystopian sci-fi film has a good shot at that category now.

  • 2 4-25-2009 at 12:17 pm

    Troy said...

    The 1st and 3rd pictures you posted look brilliant.

  • 3 4-25-2009 at 12:27 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    “Contrary to what some have suggested, the novel is a highly cinematic work.”

    Guy, in one respect I agree with you, yet on another I highly disagree. It is a very visual novel and the landscape is one of the major characters. I think a good DP and director could really nail the bleak look and feel of the novel (which judging from the stills I have seen, they look like they are on the right track).

    However, the “feel” aspect that I just mentioned could suffer some in the transition, which leads me to my second point where I disagree about the cinematic quality of the work. Cormac’s prose is more than excellent on the page, but I feel that actually hearing the words spoken on screen could greatly detract from their effectiveness. In other words, I think that this could be a situation where the script may seem profound and poetic read, but come off as pretentious over-bearing when seen in the context of the film.

    Take for instance a recent example: Watchmen. In the comic, Rorschach’s journal effectively sets the underlying nihilistic tone and theme of the work. But hearing those words spoken in the movie gave them an entirely different quality. “Fear and Loathing” is another great example — Hunter Thompson is meant to be read, not heard.

    But while I highly doubt that “The Road” movie will be equal to the book, I still think with the right combination of elements it could be very good.

  • 4 4-25-2009 at 12:42 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    All good points, Scott — I have conflicted feelings about the novel itself, and agree it poses a lot of potential pitfalls.

    We’ll be discussing this in much more detail when we cover “The Road” in our Page to Screen series soon, however, so I’m going to hold back.

  • 5 4-27-2009 at 7:54 am

    Ivan said...

    Date release???????

  • 6 4-27-2009 at 9:13 am

    David said...

    It’s funny. When I saw that still of the beach I immediately thought, “That is exactly how I pictured that location when I read the book.”

    Very excited now.

  • 7 4-29-2009 at 6:08 am

    Stalker said...

    About this great novel, please see the link.

  • 8 8-18-2009 at 4:28 am

    Hugh Marchant said...

    Hi, I have been asked by the studio to remove the slideshow of my work from my flickr account and I was legally required to do so.

    I can only ask if you would please do the same – sorry.