Friday snippets: ‘Death of the remake?’ and ‘Once upon a Time in Anatolia’


An article by Charles Gant in today’s Guardian asks ‘Is the Hollywood remake dead?’. In it he explores why some English-language remakes (most notably of the Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are not fairing as well as expected at the box office, and highlights the increased success of foreign-language films in recent years. Gant quotes Marianne Gray, a producer with Yellow Bird Films, who feels ‘everything is getting more global, and audiences are more accepting of subtitles’, but goes on to argue that there’s a bigger factor at play here as well. Put simply, ‘films are succeeding because of their foreignness, not in spite of it’; their unique selling point is authenticity, with audiences keen to sample ‘authentic originals’ rather than commercially-driven copies.

Good marketing tactics don’t hurt either, of course. The Norwegian adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters opens in cinemas this Good Friday, a release date that proved highly profitable for Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish film Let the Right One In back in 2009.

The article raises some other interesting questions, such as why English-language remakes are considered necessary in the first place, and is well worth a read.


Critics seem to be unanimous in their praise of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da): ‘a carefully controlled masterpiece’  (French / Observer); ‘completely gripping…an astonishing crime procedural’ (Quinn / Independent); ‘murder mysteries rarely run so deep’ (Calhoun / Time Out). It also won the Grand Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

The more I read about this film, the more I want to see it, and the more frustrated I become at its apparently limited distribution in the UK. I’d love to see it in on the big screen in the cinema, but may have to wait for the DVD *sigh*

Here, in any case, is a tantalising synopsis from the Cinema Guild film website:

‘In the dead of night, a group of men – among them a police commissioner, a prosecutor, a doctor and a murder suspect – drive through the Anatolian countryside, the serpentine roads and rolling hills lit only by the headlights of their cars. They are searching for a corpse, the victim of a brutal murder. The suspect, who claims he was drunk, can’t remember where he buried the body. As night wears on, details about the murder emerge and the investigators’ own secrets come to light. In the Anatolian steppes nothing is what it seems; and when the body is found, the real questions begin’.

Read Anthony Quinn’s 5 star review of the film in The Independent here (no major spoilers).

4 thoughts on “Friday snippets: ‘Death of the remake?’ and ‘Once upon a Time in Anatolia’

  1. Interesting snippets. On the “remake” point, I have been wanting for a long time to see “Reykyavik Rotterdam”, not that I know anything about it apart from that it is scripted by Arnaldur Indridason. This DVD has not been available in the UK at all (though someone in Spain has seen it!), but in the same week as the film “Contraband” came out in cinemas in the UK, “RR” was suddenly available on DVD (£6 on Amazon). Contraband is a Hollywood remake of RR, and was panned by the critics.
    I preferred the Swedish TGWTDT to the remake, though I did like the remake, too. The only pity in my mind with that remake not having done well is that they probably won’t make the next two films, which we have seen only as badly-cut-down Swedish TV series (in the cinemas). The two sequels were inferior to the first film I think. The Hollywood version would probably have been better in both cases.
    I don’t think I’m going to see Headunters, having read the book I could laugh at a couple of disgusting scatalogical scenes (typical Nesbo, crucial to the plot), but I don’t think I want to see them on the big (or small) screen!
    Prof P is keen to see that Anatolia film too, but it is equally unlikely to come to our horrid and expensive Odeon multiplex. I suppose it is TV or DVD for us, too.

    • Thanks, Maxine. I hadn’t heard of Reykyavik Rotterdam before – will check it out (and that’s an interesting note on its release date here). I have to confess that I haven’t seen the remake of TGWTDT, though I fully intend to given Daniel Craig’s luminous presence. From what you say, it sounds like it we might have been better off having the other two Swedish adaptations in series form on DVD rather than chopped into films. I still have to catch up on the final one; I’m skipping the second as I didn’t much like the book. Yes, I’ve seen the trailer for Headhunters and will pass too!

  2. I could only wish that the Hollywood remake is dead but I fear large American industries don’t learn quickly or well. I never bothered to see the remake of Tattoo, though I might download it when it becomes available on iTunes (just for completeness, having seen and read everything else).

    You have piqued my curiosity with your second snippet – sounds great and I love the idea of a film in Turkey – a country I simply adored travelling through (happily minus any major crimes of this sort) and would love to go back to. The film seems to have had a similarly spotty release here so I might have to track it down on DVD too. Bloody Headhunters (which I have zero interest in having hated the book) is everywhere. Sigh.

    • Thanks, Bernadette! I wonder if there are any Hollywood remakes that have outdone the original film. I have some film-obsessed colleagues I can ask – just interested to know if in the odd case the remake has offered something that the source film didn’t have.

      We’re going to have to form an orderly queue for Anatolia. Apparently the cinematography and landscapes are wonderful too. Headhunters will have to do without us though. Who’s the target audience is for this film?!

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