Wednesday Afternoon at the Movies
by Jerry Walden
About a year and a half ago I read a novel that left a lasting impression on me. I read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. It was not a book I bought, or sought out, or even heard of. It was recommended to me by my local librarian. I’m one of those people who knows, and has conversations with the librarian. I have been a voracious consumer of the written word since I was sitting on my fathers lap as he read the newspaper to me. My mother got me my first library card out of desperation. Books were expensive. One of my uncles once told my father that instead of teaching me to read, he should have taught me to steal. We would be rich, rich, RICH.
I couldn’t read “The Road” straight through. At about the middle of the story I had to put it aside. The story was so dark and hopeless, such an ongoing epic of endless, grinding misery, that it became a dreaded chore to turn the page. I tried to start another novel, but I couldn’t proceed. I was thinking about “The Road”. What was it about? Where was the author taking us, what was he trying to say?
I couldn’t go back to that awful story; I didn’t want to go back; but, I had to go back. The author, had somehow, drawn me into this abysmal tale and I had to continue the journey with the two central characters. I could no more escape wandering in this bitter wilderness than could the books central characters, the man and boy.
The ending of the story reminded me of my visit to Carlsbad Caverns when I was a boy. Near the beginning of the tour, after we had been led inside about a quarter of a mile, around several turns, the guide told us that we were now going to experience total darkness. Then all the lights were turned off. I was an incredible experience, eyes were totally useless. The guide left us that way for a couple of minutes; then he held up his Zippo and lit it. Our entire focus was on the light of that cigarette lighter; it was the only reality. That experience was burned into my memories. So was reading “The Road”.
One opinion that resulting from my afterthoughts about “The Road” was that it would never be made into a movie. Not many would pay good money to be stripped of all hope and joy and then handed a Zippo lighter for solace. If it were made, it would probably have a life as a cult film. Perhaps it would be an Indy film which would gain a following because it was banned in a few countries, principally the Muslim countries, and Utah.
If anyone in Hollywood was brave enough to make this film, there would have to be a love interest. It could end tragically, but it would have to be there. There could be scenes of cannibalism, instead of just hints. It’s called, “The Road”, so why not a chase scene. Maybe some of the “bad guys” have souped up lawn mowers and are chasing the “good guys”, until one hits a pot hole at 10 mile per hour, crashes and dies. Our good guys escape while the rest of the “bad guys” stop for lunch. If the adolescent audience is to be pursued, there are plenty of openings for chainsaws and ghosts. (Sorry, no vampires. They all starved.) Oh, I almost forgot, the boy must have a dog.
When I first heard that “The Road” had been made into a film, I was surprised. It was to be a major film, with major stars, an award winning director, and to be released in time to be considered for Oscar nominations. This sounded good to me. Everything about the book indicates that it could be a classic film. The conversion from written word to screen images could, and hopefully would, heighten and enhance the existential experience of the story. If left open and free from dictated meanings, individuals would be thinking about this film, and drawing their own conclusions for a considerable time. Then, as individuals change, there reactions to this film would change. It would then be a true cult film with an indeterminable life.
I was really excited. I told my editor that I wanted to see this film and compare and contrast my experience with the novel to my experience with the film. She advised me not to read any other reviews until I had seen the film. She said that if I could, don’t even watch the trailer. I became more excited and vowed to take her advice. This would be great fun, and a challenge. I was really looking forward to this. Uh, I am still really looking forward to this. Ah, I hope it really happens. Oh well, never mind.
Back in October and November there were ads in the local newspaper about “The Road” being a future release. I watched the movie listings, but, as yet, “The Road” is not showing at any of our theaters. I called around and no one knows if it will be show in Tallahassee, Florida, ever. I can understand opening a film in a few large markets to build the buzz in the rest of the nation. It generates more attendance when it does open nationally. I fear we have passed that point. I wonder, why we didn’t get to see “The Road?”
Tallahassee is not a large city, about 160,000 (not including university students), but it is the cultural and commercial center of a two state area within 150 miles. Tallahassee is the state capital of Florida, the fourth largest state in this nation. When in session, legislators and their staffs, and lobbyists from all over the world, come to Tallahassee. There are two major universities in Tallahassee; Florida State University (40,000 students), and Florida A & M University (7,000 students). The University of Florida (50,000 students) is an hours drive south. The population within this area, an hours drive of Tally Town, is several million. Traveling companies of Broadway shows, Circe de Soliel and other major entertainers come to Tallahassee. I’m puzzled, why wasn’t T Town considered a market for “The Road?”
Some may ask, “Why don’t you go to a bigger city, where you might see other films?” Well, the closest cities larger than Tallahassee are; Jacksonville, 200 miles to the east; Orlando, 200 miles southeast, Tampa, 200 miles south; Atlanta, 300 miles to the north, Birmingham, 300 miles to the northwest and New Orleans, 350 miles west. To the southwest there are no cities, just the Gulf of Mexico. Can someone provide me a reason why we can’t see “The Road”?