When Gabriel Garcia Marquez died on April 17, those who’d never read “One-Hundred Years of Solitude” might have been Googling the book to see if a movie adaptation had ever been made. I imagine a number of neophyte film buffs wondered if a movie had ever been done years ago and then quickly forgotten. When their search results turned up empty, they quickly realized Marquez never sold the film rights to his great novel and arguably one of the greatest novels ever written.
To some people, that’s created a huge gap in the world of cinema where nearly every great novel has been adapted at least once. Then again, with the magic realism of “One-Hundred Years of Solitude”, it would have been one of the greatest challenges turning into a film. Literary critics would probably agree that the prose of the novel is by far the richest element rather than any of the images it renders in the mind. Yet, both elements could be conveyed today with a smart script adaptation and the use of carefully rendered CGI.
Will the Marquez estate ever relent and let a movie someday be made of the book? The chances are small in the immediate term, though it’s worth speculating how much of an impact it could have had and could still have.
Who Could Have Taken On a Film of “One-Hundred Years of Solitude?”
If you think American, someone on the level of Orson Welles could have taken on the magic realism adeptly while also supplying a literary script. But considering Welles’s career was on the down and out by the late 1960s, it would have been impossible in reality. The 1970s would have ultimately been a perfect time right after the novel’s 1967 debut. It was a final era when real thought was put into a studio film before the independent film era took off. Had a film version come out of South America (using subtitles for America), it would have been even stronger consider how long their film culture has thrived.
Someone on the level of Guillermo del Toro would have been an excellent choice in the recent past or for the future, considering his penchant for mixing fantasy and reality. The magic realism in “One-Hundred Years of Solitude” would have to work on a level that’s immediately believable within the context of reality. Ironically, some American films have already mastered this artistic device in ways that give hope to a “One-Hundred Years” adaptation being filmable in the first place.
American Films That Gave Perfect Renderings of Magic Realism
If there’s any film that would come the closest to what a “One-Hundred Years” adaptation would look like today, it’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” If fact, there seems to be quite a bit of influence considering it’s about a family living in a near mythical southern delta where fantasy seems to blend with reality. The same can be said of some of Woody Allen’s films, even if he seems to be the last person you’d think would use the device. Take a look at “Alice” with Mia Farrow from 1990, and you’ll see magic realism used to the best effect it ever has in a city landscape.
I wrote an article about magic realism in film last year after “Beasts” released in theaters. It’s a literary device we seldom see, and audiences would have to know that any “One-Hundred Years” film adaptation wouldn’t be derivative from what’s already been done in film. Regardless, magic realism should only be secondary. The other ideas in the novel would make a powerful impact on audiences today.
The Idea of History Repeating
Those who’ve taken the time to read “One-Hundred Years” know that it digs deep into the metaphysical aspects of time, location, and family, with all of it going in strange, repeated cycles. Such a film adaptation taking on these themes would need at least three hours. And considering most films run about that length, it wouldn’t be a problem for the millions of people who’ve already assimilated the novel.
There really wouldn’t be any film like it in teaching people how to deal with the reality of how the same triumphs and mistakes seem to repeat through each ensuing generation. Magic realism may also have its own new interpretation in the odd and unexpected things that we hear about in the news on a daily basis.
Yes, the world today has a perfect parallel to “One-Hundred Years of Solitude”, more than ever. Likely, though, we’ll have to end up imagining a big-screen version in our heads as the novel captures new readers who’ve never read it before.