Not just a sick fuck with a pretty face: Adapting The Killer Inside Me and the dynamics of deviance from page to screen
Deviance is evident in the multiple versions of The Killer Inside Me: the subject matter of the novel, its treatment in the screenplay, and the filmic treatment of that subject matter - dealing as they all do with the twisted inner workings of a psychotic character - a 'sick fuck' - that finally makes it to the screen in the form of the boyish good looks of Casey Affleck. ‘Adaptation’ itself is potentially a type of deviance. The whole process of adapting a literary source can be regarded as a constant negotiation with contested meanings. In adaptation studies this process has long been articulated in debates about fidelity, intertextuality and more recently paratextuality has energized discussion of the parameters of the process. This paper examines The Killer Inside Me as a case study of the adaptation process with a particular focus on the implications of adapting a novel that compels the reader to identify with an extremely violent anti-hero figure in the central protagonist of Lou Ford.
I am interested in the response to this particular film, not least because the reviews tended to stoke the controversy around the images of sex and violence presented on-screen. I want to consider the production and release of this film as an opportunity to revisit the screen violence debate from the perspective of the challenge of adaptation: The first signs of controversy around the release of the film occurred when it was screened at Sundance in 2010 and members of the audience walked out of the screening. When the film went on general release in the same year, reviewers typically reacted with disgust . This kind of active revulsion would be repeated at further screenings and seemed exacerbated when Jessica Alba - the actress who played Joyce Lakeland in the film – was unable to sit through a full screening. However, when the film was released with an 18 certificate in the UK, the British Board of Film Classification commented on its website:
The graphic violence and sadomasochistic sex are strong in tone and feel, but they are presented within an overall justifying narrative context, which is carefully controlled by the filmmakers.
How should we view the creative decisions taken by John Curran (screenwriter) and Michael Winterbotton (director) through the adaptation process? How might our discussion of this particular example inform our understanding of the challenge of adaptation especially when the material to be adapted presents the screenwriter and the potential audience with morally repugnant material? How did they handle the sex and violence in this adaptation? Did they crank up the violence, as some reviewers seemed to suggest? Or was this a necessary consequence of an adaptation process that sought to align itself with Lou’s point of view?
|Title of host publication||Crime Uncovered|
|Subtitle of host publication||Antihero|
|Editors||Fiona Peters, Stewart Rebecca|
|Number of pages||14|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 2015|