Kurt Vonnegut’s landmark anti-war novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” is written in the style of the Tralfamadorian aliens who view all time as simultaneous and pre-determined, the author notes in his brilliant opening chapter. With no future or past or present, they are able to concentrate on this moment or that moment, but unable to change their behavior in any one of them. It’s something of an anti-narrative, a structure which Vonnegut himself calls “short and jumbled and jangled.”
But could it possibly work as a movie for ALL audiences? (The book was previously adapted in 1972, won the jury prize at Cannes, but failed to connect with viewers.)
Yes, insists Guillermo Del Toro, who lists “Slaughterhouse-Five” among his many possible post-“Hobbit” projects. The trick, he says, is to marry modern techniques in digital wizardry with new narrative possibilities.
“The book is so experimental in so many ways - now that movies have the possibility of being non-linear, you have so many possibilities to do the book honor by attempting at it.,” he said. “You could not tell that novel if your filmic language was [strictly] academic.
“One of the main things is that you can do the juxtapositions of time because the way academic storytelling would tell you is that there are flashforwards and flashbacks,” he continued. “But the reality is the whole essence of the book is that the character is unstuck in time. Unstuck in time. So you do the implications of what that means, but you are really going into pushing narrative. You’re not watching a flashback and you’re not watching a flashforward.”
To accomplish that seamless visual, Del Toro is turning to new advances in digital technology, he said.
“And when I talk about digital effects please don’t imagine that pejoratively,” he added. “I talk about truly pushing narrative.”
Del Toro wouldn’t speak towards whether or not he planned on including the Vonnegutian narrator character as well - who talks in a lengthy opening about his troubles in writing the novel.
(Speaking Vonnegut, be sure to also read our previous report on the upcoming adaptation of his “Sirens of Titan.”)
Is Guillermo Del Toro the man to bring Vonnegut to the big-screen? Does his reading of the story’s framing resonate? Could the film, like the book, truly exist with just thematic connectors? Sound off on all your thoughts below. Poo-tee-weet?