Sunday, August 02, 2009

Norwegian crime novel translated in Italian film

Girl by the Lake (La ragazza del lago), Andrea Molaioli's award-winning first film as director in 2007 was an adaptation of Karin Fossum's 5th Inspector Sejer novel (the first to be translated into English), Don't Look Back. The translation to Italy (and to film) is surprisingly effective. The evocation of the lake (site of the murder) and the town in Fossum's novel were very vivid, and Molaioli's visual equivalent is entirely coherent with the original, transformed from a small village in Norway to a village in northern, Alpine Italy, near Udine. Inspector Sejer becomes Commissario Sanzio (played with understated brilliance by Toni Servillo), but is the same tall, glum, terse policeman. The plot is simplified and changed in several significant ways without taking anything away from the dark, emotional truth of the story. And Fossum's brilliant, misdirecting beginning is preserved perfectly. The visual storytelling of the film, alternating with the dialogue of the police investigation, evokes the story in (of course) an entirely different way that Fossum's novel, but the directness of the translation points out the visual quality of Fossum's own storytelling. And the dialogue, against that background, emphasizes an essential, almost metafictional quality of the police procedural as a genre: storytelling is the subject and the medium of the form. Everyone in Girl by the Lake is telling a different story, and the police keep adapting their own version of the story as facts become known. The viewer (or reader) becomes tangled in all the stories, straight through to a final resolution (or approximation of a resolution). Girl by the Lake is a very quiet cop movie, suited to both the setting and this particular story: a lyrical evocation of dreadful illness and tragic events.

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