One of the books which snuck into my novella weekend was in fact (gasp!) not a novella, but a screenplay – I read The Hours by David Hare.
I’m a bit of an addict of The Hours. It’s how I first encountered Virginia Woolf. I’ve seen the film maybe eight or nine times; I have two versions of the soundtrack (one normal; one piano version); I have the piano music. Naturally I’ve read Michael Cunningham’s brilliant novel – twice, in fact. So it was only logical that (at least until they invent some sort of The Hours computer game – fall out of a window for ten points! Throw a cake in the bin for 20!) I should read David Hare’s screenplay.
Do you read screenplays? We talked about reading plays a while ago, and quite a few of us did, but not that often. I love reading plays, and although I haven’t read many recently, I devoured all of A.A. Milne’s many plays back in 2002/3. The Hours, on the other hand, is the first screenplay I’ve ever read.
I suppose there are a few reasons for this. Chief amongst them is that not many are published. With most films there will be a team of writers, I suppose, and it is only the aficionado who’ll have a clue who wrote the screenplay. Think through your favourite films… do you know the writer? (I always find this is a useful comparison when wondering how 16th & 17th century playgoers could be indifferent to the fact that they were witnessing Shakespeare’s handiwork.) And of course Hare was a ‘name’ before he put pen to paper for The Hours.
I did enjoy reading it, but if I didn’t love The Hours so much, I doubt I would have. It felt more or less like watching the film again. When reading a play, unless I’ve recently seen a version of it, I am able to have it enacted in my mind based entirely on the text. With a film – which will almost always only have one definitive version – it is that which plays out in my head. Luckily I am always happy to re-watch The Hours, even mentally… Oh, and the printed version comes with a nice little introduction by Hare, written when only a handful of people had had access to the film.
So… do you ever read screenplays, or is it something which wouldn’t cross your mind? Is it a step too far away from literature as we understand it? Do you think a screenplay could stand on its own as literature, away from the film? Even if you never even saw the film? I’d love to hear your thoughts…