There is an art to adapting a novel for screen and even with commercial success it can be decidedly dodgy territory - but seeing as it’s been done virtually since the dawn of cinema, people have come to expect a little artistic license. The transformation of a videogame into a movie hasn’t reached that stage yet, with most people still standing by the fact that it can’t be done competently while the rest just wait in hope for the right director, to harvest the right material and deliver a heart-stopper of a flick. So can it be done? Step forward, Christophe Gans, director and collosal fan of Silent Hill.
“I think that adapting a game is like a personal experience. For me the game is about complete immersion, like coming back from a journey and working out how to tell someone - how to describe all the feelings you have on this journey.”
Gans may just be the perfect choice to take on the task of turning X-Box fantasy into big screen reality. The 46 year-old Frenchman is a perfectionist and a pop-culture sponge. During our lunch he demonstrates an in-depth knowledge for virtually every entertainment medium - between writing, directing and completing his infamous shot by shot storyboarding, how does he find the time to complete games, read magazines and watch TV? “I need little sleep,” he smiles, “I have conditioned myself that way.”
Silent Hill follows the journey of a mother, Rose, and her adopted daughter, Sharon, as they travel to a remote and deserted town in West Virginia. Sharon is unwell, her sleepwalking is slowly getting out of control and when she is hallucinating, she screams the name of a town - the town of Silent Hill.
Back in the editing suite and Gans is talking about his team. Gathering the right group of collaborators was essential on this project seeing as the movie’s protagonists cross dimensions at the drop of a hat, it has to be believable…well, as believable as a horror movie can be.
“Radha Mitchell was an excellent choice as Rose,” he comments. “She is very Hitchcockian and I like that quality in her.” Hitchcockian or not, we can’t help noticing that the lead character is a woman. What happened to Harry Mason?
“I like the character of Harry but the problem for me is that he was a sissy, constantly dizzy,” Gans states, before adopting a high-pitched voice, “Oh my god I’m fainting!” He laughs. “First, we decided to put Harry Mason in the film. Then we started to realise that maybe people would laugh because he’s very effeminate. We decided it wasn’t working.’ So by transforming Harry into Rose it became very clear that the movie was about motherhood. It’s the story of a mother who really loves her child and the back story of a woman who didn’t love her child enough.”
Wary of the genre's reputation for clunky dialogue and shiny CGI, Gans set about tackling those two issues early on. For the words, he roped in long-time buddy and Killing Zoë writer/director Roger Avary.
“He’s one of my best friends, I have a lot of admiration for him,” Christophe says with a deep sincerity. “I surround myself with my group of people, my friends, and they work with me on my projects and for me it’s difficult enough to work in this industry especially if you want to make something original - people want you to conform. Especially with the genre we’re working in here, I want to keep my freedom and the best way to do that is to surround myself with people I trust, these people are ready to die for me.”
It seems their faith was well placed, Silent Hill strode to the top of the box office in the US this weekend, hoovering up over $20 million along the way. So where was Christophe on opening night? A lavish screening party? A script meeting for Silent Hill 2? Oh no…
“I will go on the first night and see it with the real fans, gauge the reaction.” This is the problem with perfectionists, they never know when to let it go.