NABOKV-L post 0005377, Thu, 13 Jul 2000 13:55:27 -0700

Re: A Pale Fire Movie Scenario? (fwd)
From: Walter Miale <>

>It appears the consensus is the idea of filming "Pale Fire" is an amusing
>fantasy, but the thing couldn't be done, at least not successfully.

>...Cannot be Successfully Made Into Motion

Well it's a challenge. The translation from book to film would have to be a
free one--the sort of translation, the sort of free and easy playing with
the author's ideas, that Nabokov couldn't abide in linguistic translations,
although in this particular case the only alternative would seem to be no
translation at all.

But it's not too much of a stretch, is it, to imagine the narratives of the
poem, and of the Shade-Kinbote neighbor-and-colleague relationship, and of
the Zembla fantasies, threaded together or presented in an at least
somewhat linear way, beginning with Shade's intention to write a new poem
and with the recollections and recitations of John and Sybil; and then
introducing their looney neighbor from THEIR point of view, and moving
gradually into Kinbote's house and world, and proceeding, with a measure of
suspense (?), through Shade's death and the key event of Kinbote's seizure
of the manuscript, and the crescendo of events leading to its publication
with his notes, and the resulting larger than life outrage, with a deep and
eventually terminal foray into the psychotic narrative of the notes.
Suppose the film were to open shortly before publication --with the writing
of the preface!-- followed by flashbacks leading up to the publication and
the Zemblan final "act". (William Macy as Kinbote??)

Speaking of suspense... I think Hitchcock is not a good candidate for
fantasy director of any Nabokov novel. Hitchcock took stories and novels as
departure points for excursions into something approaching pure cinema,
with the result that literary values tended to fall away. His scenarios
were not so much translations from literature as "based on" literature. His
emphasis on cinematic form was such that his plots tend to be based on
gimmicks ("Macguffins") that are of minimal significance. Of course there
are exceptions, such as Marnie, but there the human relationships are
primarily redemptive and therapeutic.
Attention the Estate of Vladimir Nabokov: The main paragraph above consists
of just musings, really. Nothing stated therein is is intended or should be
construed as advocating or encouraging or actually engaging in the free and
unauthorized translation of, or playing with, any of the work of said