Sunday, July 5, 2009

THE DANCER UPSTAIRS by Nicholas Shakespeare

Nicholas Shakespeare wrote THE DANCER UPSTAIRS twice—as an intriguing novel in 1995 and a screenplay that became a riveting film in 2002. I wish I could have read the screenplay, but I was unable to find a copy either for sale or free on the internet.
An aspiring screenwriter would do well to read the novel and then to watch the film. As good as the novel was, the film, directed by John Malkovich, was even better. In the transition from novel to film, Shakespeare trimmed away a few characters and did very little reshaping of the story. This is a study in how to translate a novel onto the screen without damaging the plot or central characters.
The seed of the story, of course, is the capture of Abimael Guzmán who led the brutal Shining Path revolutionaries in Peru. In the novel, the narrator is Dyer, an enterprising journalist, who stumbles across Agustín Rejas, the detective who tracked down President Ezequiel (based on Guzman), the mysterious leader of the murderous revolutionaries. Rejas’ story unfolds in a series of interviews with Dyer in a restaurant. Dyer and a few other minor characters are excised in the transition from novel to screenplay.
I have seen the film four times and read the novel only after my entrancement with THE DREAM DANCER in its movie form. I gave the novel and the film as a birthday present to my son, Ken, who is an aspiring screenwriter.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST, is now available as a free download on, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.
Try it, enjoy it, and if you are in the mood, review it.

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