James Franco’s Adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God
This morning I watched James Franco’s film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s third novel Child of God. Since I've read Cormac McCarthy since 1986, I'm surprised I haven't seen this film until today. McCarthy novels include The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, Child of God, Suttree, Blood Meridian, All The Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain, No Country For Old Men and The Road. McCarthy screenplays include The Gardener’s Son, The Stonemason, The Sunset Limited and The Counselor.
Four other films based on McCarthy’s writing include All The Pretty Horses (Billy Bob Thornton), No Country For Old Men (Coen Brothers), The Road (John Hillcoat) and The Counselor (Ridley Scott).
Child of God revolves around Lester Ballard who lives in remote caves and mountainous terrain in Sevier County, Tennessee. The film stars Scott Haze, Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco and Jim Parrack. This book serves as difficult material to impress upon moviegoers. It helps to be familiar with McCarthy’s work before one jumps into this story. Franco's bold adaptation of the tale commands priase.
Shot in West Virginia, Franco decided to utilize a hand-held filming technique that gives the film a real spook...a Super 8-Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe. Aaron Embry's music score meets all the standards of excellence, and fits the film's beautiful landscape.
Lester Ballard was already living a troubled life when falsely accused of rape. Hounded by the law, Ballard begins killing couples and sleeping with dead girls. The end of the film does not end like the book--of course--but I admire Franco’s audacity to tackle some of McCarthy’s darkest work. Ballard is described by the narrator as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps."
In 2013, Franco told the Wall Street Journal this about his discussion regarding the adaptation with McCarthy: "I didn't talk to him until we were in the middle of production and I had a clear idea about how we wanted to do it. In the first phone conversation I said, 'Cormac, people asked me why I wanted to make a movie about this subject, so I'm going to ask you the same question. Why did you write a book about this subject?' He said, verbatim, 'I don't know, James, probably some dumb ass reason.'
"Then I told him my ideas. I said 'It's an interesting portrait of someone who is pushed further and further out of a civilized society, from a cabin to a cave.' To elude this lynch mob, he escapes into a cave and goes deeper into a cave. I thought it was a fascinating portrait of someone who is on the fringes of society. I said that to him and he said, 'Maybe, James, maybe that's it.' Then he said, 'Well, you know, there are people like that amongst us nowadays.'"
True enough...as I turn on the news...