Monday, 12 November 2007

Johnny Depp in Secret Window

Novels hardly ever translate well into films. But short stories seem ideally suited to reinterpretation on the big screen. Stephen King’s Secret Window, Secret Garden which was filmed as Secret Window is a case in point.

Mort Rainey is a writer whose life is beginning to let him down. His marriage has failed and his writing is blocked. And now, as if those things weren’t making him miserable enough, a man calling himself John Shooter appears, accusing Mort of plagiarism.

It soon becomes clear that Mr Shooter is not all he seems; threats begin to mount and murders start to happen. Mort becomes more and more troubled and manages to do less and less writing. Instead he sleeps. And sleeps.

As a psychological thriller, Secret Window is good. As a psychological exploration of the disintegration of a creative mind, it is excellent. I won’t spoil your fun by telling you what happens but you can watch this film in the full expectation of twists, turns and a satisfying ending.

But I think I must go back and read the original story because I’m slightly confused as to what exactly it is which unhinges Mort. Is it the breakdown of his marriage? Is it the fact that he has previously been guilty of plagiarism? Or is there something else going on? I didn’t feel I knew at the end of the film. Can anybody who’s read the story tell me whether it’s any clearer from the original?

While we’re still on the subject, Secret Window reminded me slightly of King’s novel The Dark Half in which writer Thad Beaumone is taken over by one of his own characters; or is it the anatomical remnant of his prenatally dead twin which lives inside him? Obviously, the ‘dark half’ of the title is a metaphor for the way in which all writers, at some time or another, feel that they are beholden to some force beyond their control for their books, but it is a very darkly interesting twist on that metaphor.

I’ ve never read Stephen King before because I’d pigeonholed him as a ‘horror’ writer, largely due to the way he is marketed. I think this does him a great disservice. He is actually a very accomplished writer of psychological thrillers - why aren't his books ever described as such?

1 comment:

Akasha Savage said...

There is a lot more depth and back story in Secret Window, Secret Garden than can be portrayed in the film.
I made the fatal mistake of re-reading the short story before watching the film...and both are actually quite different...I think the ending to the original tale a lot better than the one put on the end of the movie. But, saying that, Secret Window is still one of my favourite films...excellent in its own right.
I too feel it a shame that Stephen King is always hung on the horror writer's peg...he is oh such a lot
more...and the people who don't read him because they think it is all monsters, blood and gore, are missing out on some of the best stories of our time.

Ok...Ok...I'll get off my Stephen King soap box now!!!