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If there’s one thing that a quick look at the current state of television and movies will tell you, it’s that there’s not much need for original ideas when there’s so much out there ready and waiting to be adapted, updated or just outright ripped off. That’s why we’ve decided to help in that process with a series which offers up some of the things we’d like to see being brought to big screen or small. This week’s suggestion? A Child Across The Sky.
What Is It?
A 1989 novel by American magical realism novelist Jonathan Carroll, it’s the third in a loose cycle of novels that have become known as the “Answered Prayers” series; each of the novels (Bones of the Moon, Sleeping in Flame, A Child Across The Sky, Black Cocktail, Outside The Dog Museum, After Silence and From The Teeth of Angels) have a somewhat shared cast, with characters and references crossing between books even if there’s no one storyline connecting them all together. Plotwise, it’s the story of a critically-acclaimed filmmaker, Weber Gregston, who decides to complete the unfinished final movie of his best friend, who committed suicide midway through shooting. Of course, this being a magical realist story, there’s more to it than that; did the best friend kill himself because his horror movie franchise unleashed a genuine evil on the world? And does that explain why an angel seems to have come to Earth to prevent the movie from being completed?
A book that mixes weighty existential and moral issues with a glossy Hollywood-esque touch – this is a book that clearly loves cinema, and moviemaking, in the same way that Hollywood tends to romanticize and mythologize the same subjects – this feels like the most natural of Carroll’s (highly enjoyable) novels to adapt, if only because there’s a shared language of moving image there, as an “in” for filmmakers and viewers alike. It’s not my favorite Carroll novel – that’s likely be From The Teeth of Angels – but at heart, it’s a horror movie that seeks to unsettle and unravel the genre’s appeal, and that seems to me like something that many people could find themselves interested in seeing.
What Could It Be?
A movie, of course. Perhaps part of a series of movies based around Carroll’s work (I can but wish), but what I’d be interested in seeing would be a collaborative movie in terms of directors; there could be as many as three directors working on a movie Child – One in charge of the main narrative, one responsible for the scenes we see of Gregston’s movies (which are apparently beautiful and graceful in the way they were shot), and a final taking on the horror movies directed by the deceased best friend (Again, somewhat beautiful, but increasingly schlocky and reliant on shock tactics as his franchise continued). For some reason, I can imagine the Coen Brothers being the directors responsible for the main sequence, with Saw‘s James Wan taking on the horror movie portion and… someone who I can’t quite get my head around for the Gregston sequences. Christopher Nolan, perhaps? He can do spectacle well, after all, but I’m not sure if I’d call his work “beautiful….” David Fincher? Maybe.
(With those three choices, I may have determined that such a movie will never happen.)
Weirdly enough, I keep coming back to Joss Whedon or Drew Goddard for script duties, in part because of their former work, but also because I think they could bring the humanity and, for want of a better way of putting it, glossiness that the novel has, into the dialogue no matter who directed it. In terms of actors, you’d need a recognizable lead (and preferably a recognizable dead best friend, who ends up playing a substantial role in the story through flashbacks and… other means), but otherwise, I’d want relative unknowns in the other roles, so as to let the story be its own thing.
The A Child Across The Sky movie I’m suggesting may not sound like a blockbuster, but that feels true to the core material, which is anything but – It’s a story about movies, and death, and love and all those grand themes, and any potential movie adaptation would never break box office records… but, done right, it could change minds, make people reconsider what they watch for entertainment and live on in people’s heads for a long time afterwards.