Films by Harold Pinter
Collected Screenplays 3

The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Heat of the Day, The Comfort of Strangers, The Trial, The Dreaming Child

Introduction to Volume 3

The problem with adapting John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman was that of the active role the author plays in the book. To have the author on screen, talking to us, as it were, seemed to Karel Reisz and me to be impossible. Karel solved this dilemma brilliantly, I thought, by proposing that the actors playing Sarah Woodruff and Charles Smithson in 1860 also play the actors themselves in the present, so that the two narratives run concurrently and the perspectives constantly shift. The two narratives, in other words, complement and illuminate each other. The screenplay took a long time to write but was very rewarding.

Elizabeth Bowen's shadowy, dense wartime novel The Heat of the Day, a spider's web of dubious loyalties and betrayals, I found compelling. It was shot by Christopher Morahan for television and the framework of blacked-out London was most persuasive. Patricia Hodge gave a very intelligent and touching performance, Michael Gambon one of his very best and Michael York his best. The film was shown at 10pm on a Saturday night the day after Boxing Day and about three people saw it. It was not reviewed in the press and was never shown again.

Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers is a truly frightening book. It slid onto the screen. Paul Schrader moved about a dark Venice almost on tiptoe and the deepening magnetism of evil (with a smiling face) I think is truly disconcerting. I found in it an echo of silent movies where the audience would cry: "Don't go through that door!" But the two victims did go through that door and the fearsome Christopher Walken ate them up.

I had wanted to have a crack at The Trial for many years and the BBC finally gave me the opportunity. David Jones and I decided to set it in pre-first world war Prague, where and when the world appeared to be solid and stable. The growing shadow of another world, seeping into K's consciousness, I thought was very well conveyed in the film, which seemed to me a rich piece of work altogether.

I adapted Karen Blixen's The Dreaming Child a couple of years ago and the film has not yet been made. The short story is wonderfully elusive and mysterious and I believe it will make a very arresting and affecting film. I hope it comes about.

I have never written an original film. But I've enjoyed adapting other people's books very much. Altogether, I have written twenty-four screenplays. Two were never shot. Three were rewritten by others. Two have not yet been filmed. Seventeen (including four adaptations of my own plays) were filmed as written. I think that's unusual. I certainly understand adapting novels for the screen to be a serious and fascinating craft.

Harold Pinter

13 September 2000

Amazon   Faber & Faber   Slate   Royal National Theatre   Comedie Francaise   Samuel french
Internal Links: Plays | Films | Biography | Poetry | Politics | Acting | Directing | Publications | Calendar | Links | Forum | Archive | Home
External Links: Faber and Faber | | | National Theatre | Comedie-Francaise | Gate Theatre | Ticketmaster | | Slate | Amnesty
Other Items: The Observer | Letter to the Independent | Depleted Uranium | One For The Road | No Mans Homecoming | New World Order | Degree Speech
Harold Pinter's work is represented by Judy Daish Associates Limited - and applications for all performances and uses of Harold Pinter's work (including amateur and professional stage performances, radio broadcasts, television transmissions and readings and use of extracts) need to be addressed to them in the first instance and in advance of finalizing your plans. Judy Daish Associates will then contact the Estate of Harold Pinter (Lady Antonia Fraser Pinter) if appropriate. The Estate should not be contacted directly for permissions. Please do not assume that a licence or permission will be forthcoming as there are sometimes conflicts between permission requests.
© Harold Pinter 2000 - 2012 All Rights Reserved | Disclaimer