Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Camilla Dickinson by Madeleine L'Engle: the Movie!

I just got back from the West Coast where I saw the premiere of Camilla Dickinson, the film adaptation of my grandmother's first YA novel at the Seattle International Film Festival.

When we think of Madeleine L'Engle's body of work, CD may not jump out at you as the most cinematic.  However, my grandmother first wrote Camilla Dickinson for the stage and then decided to write it as a novel.

It is Madeleine's third published novel, and came out in 1951 just on the heels of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Camilla at the time was  deemed Holden's female counterpart, at a time when the world was more ready for a young and struggling MALE protagonist. Madeleine L'Engle wouldn't become well-known until 1962 when readers identified with her flawed protagonist Meg in A Wrinkle in Time.

I love my grandmother's earliest works - it's where I really feel her essence and her own struggle toward the light that mirrors my own.

So of course I had been looking forward to seeing Camilla in film since 1999 when my grandmother gave the script to one her many godchildren, the film-maker Cornelia Duryée Moore and told her to "have at it."

I wasn't disappointed.

Moore went through twenty seven revisions of the script before finding both the right tone and the funding to help her make this dream a reality. Armed with Larry Estes as a producer and a wonderful cast, Camilla has made her way onto the screen. It is a character driven book and remains a character driven movie. This is why the team had their choice of many brilliant actors to play these rich and complex roles, where all of the drama needs to be shown internally.

No, this is not a Hollywood, commercial film by any stretch of the imagination. It retains it's dark, coming-of-age themes, but has more of a sweetness at it's core. The character of Frank, dynamically  played by the very handsome British actor Gregg Sulkin, is not as dangerous as he appears in the book but we love him for it. Camilla herself is played gorgeously by Australian Adelaide Clemens as an icicle of a girl who is triangulated by her upper-class parents. She is an icicle who breaks out into her own personhood. Camilla's best friend and sister, Luisa Rowan is played flawlessly by Meisner specialist Colby Minifie. The emotions that these young actors are able to express through subtle changes in facial expressions was impressive.

And then of course, there was Cary Elwes and Samantha Mathis, expertly playing the roles of Camilla's detached father and emotionally fragile yet narcissistic mother.

It was a thrill to be there, and to watch Cornelia - who I have known since I was a struggling teen myself - present her labor of love to the world. We were able to have lunch with three of the actors before the premier on the boat that Corrie's dad built: Gregg, Colby, and another young actress named Rachel Grate who played the role of Pompilia. They are all so funny and down to earth - actors whose careers I will be watching closely. Actors who love to act, who challenge themselves to completely embody a role other than themselves.

I know what you are all asking yourselves: how can I get my hands on this? Well, the movie industry seems even crazier to me than the book industry - the way for you all to see this movie is for it to get bought by a bigger distributor. (Anybody know somebody who knows somebody?)


  1. It will be very hard to wait but....in the meantime I just got the book down from one of several Madeleine L'Engle shelves to reread. :)

  2. Ooh, how exciting! Here's hoping it gets bought by a bigger distributor so we can all see it. :)

  3. What a cool experience that must've been for you. I had not heard of the novel before this! Don't know any big distributors....

  4. I wish I could help, because I surely do want to see this. The actors look perfect!

  5. Oh, I'd love to see Camilla brought to life. Especially if they do it well. Can't wait. I'm a huge fan of all her YA books. :)

  6. OMG!!!! who do i need to send a petition to? BTW, is Wrinkle in Time movie still in the works?

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. This was really something very special and interesting.
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  9. Will probably be severely to have to wait however.... in the meantime I just got your book along via one of the Aspca Madeleine L'Engle racks to help reread.

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