Something Concrete At Last?
Finally, a film to get excited about!
As usual the summer cinemas will be awash in the amiable biff-bang-codswallop of superhero movies and and talking animal flicks for the attention-challenged, so when I saw this poster my dark heart leapt. Brad Anderson is one of my favourite directors. Let’s forgive him the misstep of ‘Vanishing On 7th Street’ and remember the terrifying ‘Session 9’, a disturbing thriller set in a decommissioned asylum, and ‘The Machinist’, a modern noir which Christian Bale lost an insane amount of weight to star in, making his non-CGI appearance all the more alarming. Anderson’s ‘Transsiberian’ featured a murder on a Russian train with surprising consequences. The director favours real locations to add verisimilitude and seems ideally suited to adapt JG Ballard.
Who better, then, to turn Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’ into a film? We’re still waiting for another terrific director, Vincenzo (‘Cube’, ‘Splice’) Natali, to bring us the ill-fated ‘High Rise’, a book which has been through many filmmakers’ hands without results. Ballard is hard to adapt – how do you keep his ideas and the flavour of his writing intact? After the travesty of Cronenberg’s hopelessly misguided ‘Crash’ it might be felt that no-one can do justice to Ballard’s words. The genius of his subversive text is that Ballard makes you care about unpalatable ideas. Instead, ‘Crash’ turned a genuinely horrific idea – that sex would become fetishised with death – into a miserably drab and prosaic experience.
‘Running Wild’, ‘High Rise’ and ‘Concrete Island’ came from this period of Ballard’s writing, when the writer seemed to be accurately predicting the future in his novels. In ‘Concrete Island’ a man crashes his car over the side of the motorway and finds himself in one of those dead areas beneath the tarmac where no pedestrians ever venture. But he discovers that others are trapped down there, their cries having gone unnoticed by the cars overhead.
Ballard makes the impossible believable. In ‘High Rise’, internecine warfare break out between the social classes in a tower block. Such high concepts throw up all kinds of logic challenges to a film-maker. You can read more about some of his ill-fated projects on the excellent website ‘Ballardian‘.
In a time when even Philip K Dick’s pulpiest jottings get made into movies, it would be good to see Ballard’s politically-charged SF ideas brought to the screen.