“Children of Men”: Literary sabotage, or award-winning adaptation?

The debate continues:

Did the screenwriters for Children of Men take a novel written by a Christian, which offered a profoundly Christian vision of human depravity and redemption, and turn it into an attack on Christianity?

Or were they just interested in taking P.D. James’ premise and exploiting it for their own purposes?

Does it really qualify for an adaptation at all?

Does James care? Did she sign off on this version of the story?

Is it a work of literary sabotage, or creative re-imagining?

Well… whatever the case, the USC Libraries Scripter Award has just been handed to P.D. James AND the five screenwriters of Children of Men: Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby.

Scripter is awarded annually by the University of Southern California Libraries to honor writers for the best achievement in adaptation among English-language films released during the previous year and based on a book, novella or short story. Scripter is unique among entertainment and literary awards in that it recognizes both the authors and the screenwriters of a produced book-to-film adaptation.

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  • SolShine7

    A Christian author wrote Children of Men, way cool! I wrote a blog post about the movie because the concept really captivated me but I had no idea the author was a sister in the faith. I haven’t seen the movie yet but it seems like it will be really good. Now, I want to read the book to see how it compares to the film. Thanks for the 411.


  • Neil E. Das

    I agree with Greg about the nature of adaptation, more or less. I must say, however, that I was disappointed with some aspects of the movie, having been a big fan of the book, even though I thought it very well made with some excellent scenes.

    I understand that the director had different fish to fry than P. D. James, and I suppose that is his perogative as James had sold the rights.

    I thought the movie did expand the vision of what was a rather more limited and parochial plot in the book, and in the process adapted it to modern times. Granting the screenwriters the right to change things, though, it was frustrating to see them give key sympathetic characters a rather hokey Eastern religious sensibility, rather stereotypically drawn at that, which added to the sting of having Christianity largely wiped from the film (the mother and child do find temporary respite in a home of what seems to be Eastern Orthodox believers of some sort).

    I suppose I really simply missed having some elements from the book displayed on the screen: the gradual growth of a love between Theo and Julian, the strong/fragile and faithful/weak character of Julian herself.

    For more of my views on the book, you can check out this review if you like.

    Jeffrey, I wonder whether you have, since this debate ensued read or plan to read the book or not, and, if so, if any of your thoughts about the movie changed in any way?

  • Greg Wright

    (FWIW, I wrote that previous comment PRIOR to reading your conversation with Derrickson about Children of Men!)

  • Greg Wright

    At least in terms of the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences, the terminology is “Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Source.” The issue is how good the screenplay is, not how well it hews to the original source. “Adapted from Another Source” is merely descriptive, a means of distinguishing adaptations from “original” screenplays — movies written specifically for the medium.

    I think it does an injustice to writers to debate how “well” a screenplay has been adapted from a book. James made the decision to sell the rights to her book, and gave up creative control. Nobody forced her to do that. That being the case, the screenwriters for Children of Men are free to do with the source material what they want.

    I’m not defending what seems like a clear case of de-Christianization, by the way.

    But I think it’s possible to say both “They wrote a fantastic screenplay” and “They butchered the book.”