Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005397, Mon, 17 Jul 2000 20:50:15 -0700

Re: A Pale Fire Movie Scenario? (fwd)
Re: A Pale Fire Movie Scenario? (fwd)In re Andrew Landridge's scenario I would call your attention to Charles Kinbote's novel-in-progress SILVERY LIGHT at
----- Original Message -----
From: Andrew Langridge
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2000 2:26 AM
Subject: Re: A Pale Fire Movie Scenario? (fwd)

All this incidental talk of Raul Ruiz in relation to the possibility of filming Pale Fire put me in mind of how Ruiz filmed a similarly "unfilmable" subject in The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting, and this in turn led me to the realisation that the problem might be solved by the inclusion of a passive pawn. Here goes. . .


PROLOGUE: We begin with the gorgeous blue skies over Cedarn, Utana. A picture perfect alpine landscape. Sweeping down, we glimpse a few spartan lodges, a rundown amusement park, a telephone booth.

An imposing man, his back to us, is speaking earnestly on the telephone. Naturally enough, we only hear his side of the conversation.

He congratulates his interlocutor on having tracked him down.

He curses the carnival music that periodically drowns him out.

At the apparent mention of Professor H (or Professor C), Kinbote (for it is he) launches into a colorful tirade. He proudly defends his position and academic credentials and graciously agrees to grant his interlocutor an interview. This special privilege is granted, you understand, only because Kinbote highly esteems his prospective interviewer and trusts that he will present a fair and unbiased account of their conversation.

Basically, this opening phone-call should contain as much material from the novel's Introduction as can reasonably be smuggled in.


The film proper begins as Kinbote invites his guest into his Timonesque log cabin. We don't get a clear view of this character, but never mind, Kinbote is the centre of our attention. A few preliminary questions and answers outline the nature of Kinbote's task and give the interviewer and ourselves some background information about John Shade and "Pale Fire."

Almost immediately (he is impatient to put the finishing touches on his manuscript and send it off), Kinbote launches into this special preview of his great work.

Kinbote reads the poem -- carefully, tenderly -- to his unseen interlocutor (who only occasionally needs to prompt his garrulous subject with a question), constantly punctuating it with his own commentary, explanations and digressions (conveniently enacted for the viewer in cinemascope).

In this way, the three stories of the commentary, that of Charles II, that of Kinbote and Shade and that of Gradus, can be presented in pretty much the same order and manner (albeit inevitably simplified) that they appear in the novel. The delight and surprise of a first linear reading of the novel can be pretty much preserved, and the poem may be respectfully inserted in the interstices of the colourful commentary.

Throughout Kinbote's performance, the interviewer is always deferential, respectful -- even fawning -- but he's on the margins, a shoulder, a shadow.

The story builds to its natural climax. After the performance Kinbote seems spent, emotionally frayed. He entrusts his interlocutor with a sealed letter -- instructions on what to do in the event of some fatal calamity, he darkly hints -- and wishes Mr V. Botkin a safe and pleasant journey back to New Wye. The camera spirals around Kinbote for the film's first reverse shot, but there's nobody there. Fade to black.

The end credits roll over a picture postcard of Mount Kobaltana, strikingly reminiscent of the alpine landscape that opened the film.
_ Andrew Langridge

>From: TomPerdue@aol.com
>In any case, it's hardly sacrilige to imagine a filmic Pale Fire. But why not
>take the reimagining further? Make Shade a movie director, and Kinbote the
>madman who's absconded with, and is furiously editing, the raw footage? You
>see what I'm getting at?

I don't think "Tom's" idea would work for Pale Fire, as it would be difficult for any editor, however gifted or insane, to construct Zembla from the documentary rushes of Shade's daily life. You can see a similar idea at work in Greenaway's Vertical Features Remake, if you're really interested.
This translation of media could perhaps work quite nicely however with another great unfilmable, The Gift, with Fyodor the young filmmaker constructing a grand, old-fashioned drama that incorporated his early experimental shorts, the fragments of the abandoned project about his father and his brilliant short documentary wittily demolishing the legacy of Jean-Luc Godard. But first, you have to make the brilliant short documentary. . .