light reading

Somewhere, and Nine Great Movies That Were Way Longer Than Their Scripts

‪As you probably know, in traditional screenplay format, one page of script equals one minute of screen time. But it doesn’t always work out that way, especially with certain directors — of which Sofia Coppola is one. Her films tend to be quiet — at least, dialogue-wise — and her latest, Somewhere, is no exception. Her initial screenplay for Lost in Translation was reportedly not really a screenplay at all, but a short “scriptment” featuring bits of dialogue, thoughts, and pictures. And last week, she told us that Somewhere’s script was only 48 pages long. So that got us thinking: What other films had screenplays that were significantly shorter than the final films? To be fair, there are a lot of films that could be on this list, but weren’t. Some mumblecore films shoot without scripts at all. Transformers 2 reportedly went into production without a screenplay because of the writers’ strike (gee, we’d never have guessed). And did Mel Brooks’s Silent Movie even have a script? But we’ve looked far and wide and come up with this list of our favorite features made from significantly shorter scripts, ranked according to their page:minute ratios (a unit we’re calling the “Sofia”).‬

Page Count: 80 pages Running time: 102 min ‪Page:Minute Ratio: .78 Sofias‬ ‪There are rumors flying around the web that the script for Robert Rodriguez’s epic third installment in his Mariachi saga was actually 45 pages long. But we have it on reasonably good authority that it was closer to 80 pages, which is still impressive, given that this was one of Rodriguez’s most ambitious films, not to mention one of his most star-studded.
‪Page count: 77 pages‬ ‪Running time: 100 min ‪Page:Minute Ratio: .77 Sofias‬ ‪Apparently you can eat up a lot of screen time if you get your actors to speak their monologues about car-accident-wound sex and sodomy reeaally sloowly. We kid, we kid. David Cronenberg’s notorious, controversial cult adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s notorious, controversial cult novel has been called indulgent by some, but it must have been pretty damn austere on the page.‬
‪Page count: 75 pages‬ ‪Running time: 99 min‬ ‪Page:Minute Ratio: .75 Sofias‬ ‪James Cameron and Steven Soderbergh’s joint sci-fi adaptation of Stanislav Lem’s novel and Andrei Tarkovsky’s expansive interplanetary art-house flick is all mood and very little dialogue, which perhaps explains the discrepancy between the film’s running time and its page count.‬
Page count: 82 pages Running time: 124 mins Page:Minute Ratio: .66 Sofias We’re not sure how this prestige adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s Holocaust-inflected novel (by acclaimed playwright David Hare, no less) wound up weighing in at a measly 82 pages, but, well, it did. Perhaps it’s Hare’s theatrical background — standard play format doesn’t require a 1:1 adherence between minutes and pages. Still, we remember The Reader being a fairly dialogue-heavy movie. Surely, Kate Winslet’s nude scenes couldn’t have eaten THAT much time, no?
Page count: 57 pages‬ ‪Running time: 103 mins Page:Minute Ratio: .55 Sofias‬ ‪Let’s face it: Ken Russell used to get away with this sort of thing all the time. Perhaps never more flamboyantly than with his audacious, eye- and ear-popping biopic of Franz Liszt, starring Roger Daltrey of The Who.‬
‪Page count: 70 pages‬ ‪Running time: 136 min‬ ‪Page:Minute Ratio: .51 Sofias‬ ‪If you’re Stanley Kubrick and you’ve just made 2001: A Space Odyssey, chances are the studio will cut you some slack. The great Kubrick was notoriously frustrated with the typical screenplay format and often experimented with new ways of planning his films. He was also, despite his reputation as a control freak, a big believer in improvising. As a result, his screenplay of Anthony Burgess’s novel weighed in at a trim 70 pages, with much of the ultraviolence referred to in general terms. The finished film was considerably heftier.‬
‪Page count: 76 pages‬ ‪Running time: 180 min‬ ‪Page:Minute Ratio: .42 Sofias‬ ‪We’ve never actually seen the script itself, but somewhere out there is a 76-page shooting screenplay for Akira Kurosawa’s mesmerizing, expansive Samurai epic. We can only assume that it omits descriptions of the film’s tense pauses, not to mention those lengthy, brutal battle scenes. We’re still not sure how it all comes down to 76 pages, but we figure if anybody could turn a slender script into a massive, masterful war epic, it was Kurosawa.‬
‪Page count: 33 pages‬ ‪Running time: 85 min Page:Minute Ratio: .38 Sofias‬ ‪Van Sant once admitted to us that in adapting Blake Nelson’s Dostoevskian young-adult novel about crime and punishment (or lack thereof), he basically just took a Word file of the novel, changed the margins around, and called it a screenplay. We’re still not sure how it managed to be 33 pages, since the novel itself is 192 pages long. But we’re not complaining, since the result was basically a masterpiece. It probably helps that nearly half the movie consists of hypnotic, slow-motion documentary shots of Portland skaters.‬
‪Page count: 26 pages‬ ‪Running time: 71 min ‪Page:Minute Ratio: .36 Sofias‬ ‪You may have missed this lovely Shane Meadows film when it came out a couple of years ago, so consider this added encouragement. The director’s lovely coming-of-age tale about the friendship between two boys, one British and the other Polish, in a working-class corner of London, is gentle and constantly surprising. But perhaps it was most surprising to Meadows himself, who started shooting a short film and wound up with a feature.‬
Somewhere, and Nine Great Movies That Were Way Longer Than Their Scripts