The Alchemist as a film

‘I feel like the luckiest man on the planet. It’s a dream come true for me, to be able to direct and star and bring Coelho’s book to the screen.’ —  Laurence Fishburne

I have my doubts of The Alchemist as a film. I am not the only one, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho tried unsuccessfully to buy back the film rights.

Nothing ruins a good book than a bad film. Something I have never understood, is buying the rights to a book, then producing a film that has no resemblance to the film other than the title.

If The Alchemist is to be turned into a film, I would have seen it directed by a Chinese director, say the director of House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower, as I am sure they would have done a better job, especially the desert scene.

The problem with American directors is that they are more interested in American bums on seat and their limited attention span, than producing a good film. To them a film is a product, not an artistic creation.

Two other Paulo Coelho novels have been turned into films: Veronika Decides to Die and The Witch of Portobello.

Veronika Decides to Die has been shown in Brazil, but as far as I am aware has not been released elsewhere. A key moment of Veronika Decides to Die  is as Veronika lies dying, she is annoyed by a supposedly witty comment of a journalist who does not know where Slovenia is. The film is set in New York!

The Witch of Portobello is as I write on its way to me on DVD.  Directed by Los Angeles filmmaker Tadeh Daschi, the film stars Carolena Sabah as the enigmatic Athena. The film was the result of a competition organised by Paulo Coelho. The original music featured in the film was composed by  Tadeh Daschi and showcases world music group Visa.

The Witch of Portobello will be premiered at the Rome Film Festival October 2009.

The Winner Stands Alone, the latest novel by Paulo Coelho, is a damning indictment of the film and fashion industry and the cult of celebrity.

At $60 million (a Harvey Weinstein production), a big budget film for a very simple story. In announcing his production on the beach at the Cannes film Festival in 2008, it was a parody of The Winner Stands Alone or what it the other way around? Do we have life imitating art or  art imitating life?

The Alchemist is a $60 million Harvey Weinstein production, staring and directed by Laurence Fishburne.  Following the announcement at Cannes, filming was scheduled to start spring last year at various locations in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

The Alchemist recently celebrated two years in The New York Times best seller list. Not bad for a book that was first published twenty years ago.

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4 Responses to “The Alchemist as a film”

  1. Dances With Crayons Says:

    Yes, I have concerns too : (

    Because the magic for me, was the entire experience, from holding it, getting cozy on the sofa, reading quickly or slowly, getting to know the characters … letting it become. And Keith, I wrote in the pages, every possible space. Found such encouragement there, because I had not yet been to Africa (and it was my dream!!). Now, how does one take that experience and put it on film? Then, sent the book to a friend that was going through a rough time in 2003. She put the book aside for years, then took it along to Hawaii to read during 2008 and in haste, forgot it there. So somewhere in Hawaii, the book lives on, transforming another life : )

    For each of us readers, personal transformation happens in a unique way.

    I did not realize that Paulo wanted to buy the rights back. Oh dear!!

    The first time I realized that book adaptations were quite different was after reading Stephen King’s ‘Christine’ then watching the movie. My goodness what a different story. Adaptations are adaptations. However, that has been the lesson. Great books have their own sincerity and special blend of magic.

    Then, I look at Finlay J. MacDonald’s omnibus of books – ‘Crowdie and Cream’, etc. (Gruth is Uachdar). I read the books, loved the stories. Than not a year later, the BBC produced a mini-series. I was screaming BRAVO and tried afterwards, to purchase a copy, but they still have not released it! Magical!! The difference perhaps, was that Finlay himself was involved in the process. And that seemed to make the difference.
    p.s. Apparently, there is a CD or DVD available of the music from the miniseries.

    So, I will remain hopeful. The Alchemist is my favorite book of all time, and I have read a lot of books!!

    Thanks Keith : )

  2. The Witch of Portobello « Keithpp's Blog Says:

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  3. Curt Fischbach Says:

    Hopefully the magic that is the book will come through in film. You would think it would be quite easy to follow the story line of the book. How could you improve on that tale? I understand the problem with turning it into a Hollywood production but I trust Laurence Fishburne can see beyond that.
    I spent a year hitchhiking across Africa in the mid 90’s. I kept that book the entire trip and I must have read it 50 times. It got me across that continent and at one point it may have even saved my life. I’m looking forward to it, believe

    • Dances With Crayons Says:

      Hi Curt,

      It’s always very exciting to read comments of other fans of this story, as it is my favorite of all time!!

      Like you, I have big huge hopes too! Sometimes, the simplest truth, beauty and inspiration is the most difficult to write (my opinion, because words are not my gift), yet, Paulo did it. That’s the magic! The pangea of books!! And agree, there could be no improving on Paulo’s work. So I hope that the fable, the way it is, is told in such a way to make Paulo and his readers around the world, smile. Ready to really live life again. Not to forget to include those who have not yet read The Alchemist, but might well want to, after seeing the film.

      Enjoyed reading that you had been to Africa! Did you write about your travels? So exciting to read your comments about the book keeping you strong. I think of it too, not only when sailing is smooth but when the going gets tough and then, jump right back up on my feet.

      I dreamt of Africa since very young, and just after reading The Alchemist in 2003, was finally on my way in 2004!! If interested, you can read about it here:

      Love, Jane : )

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