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THE HOURS

About The Production
Scott Rudin purchased the screen rights to Michael Cunningham's novel, many wondered how easily a film could be made of such a nuanced, non-linear literary work. Yet the idea of multiple, interweaving story lines in disparate historical time-frames is a highly cinematic concept going back at least as far as 1916 in D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance." With the addition of a top-flight cast and director, and a screenplay by one of the most acclaimed contemporary dramatists, The Hours has made an assured, enhanced transition from page to screen. Director Stephen Daldry says: "I actually found that the idea of three stories and three women, and the relationship among them, was a wonderful opportunity to try to create a single narrative."

Screenwriter David Hare saw Michael Cunningham's novel as an "extraordinarily accomplished piece of literature." He adds: "I thought that the tactic of telling three stories without the reader being able to understand the way they connected was completely fascinating. Somehow, Michael managed to sustain your interest even though you didn't know exactly how the pieces fit. And the fascination of that he accomplished beautifully. Then, when you did understand how they fit, it became profoundly satisfying."

Hare understood the screenplay would have to be a different structure from the one in the novel. "I found my own way of mixing the stories up and making new connections," he says. "I knew we could replicate the pleasure the book gives --that of slowly understanding the way in which the three stories fit together."

But because nearly everything in the book is what goes on inside the characters' heads, the biggest challenge for Hare as a screenwriter was to communicate through action and behavior what was internalized thought in Cunningham's novel.

In film, you can't have inner voice unless you have voiceover," observes Hare. "We made a very specific decision at the very beginning not to have voiceover, and once that was decided, I had to invent a certain number of events which expressed what was going on inside the characters' heads without spelling it out. For instance, the whole theme of the way in which Laura's husband has come back from the war -- we need to know how his experience of the war has marked their marriage. There is the sense of World War II seeping into the film, which I've had to make explicit in that birthday-party scene at the end of the film where he talks about how he first saw her. In the book, of course, that's not expressed outwardly. I had to invent a whole series of events like that in order to express what went on inside the characters. For instance, I also quite radically changed Clarissa's partner and her private life in order to try and express various things which went on inside their heads."

It was a challenge Hare enjoyed. "This is where filmmaking becomes fun. Because not only was I denying myself voiceover; I was extremely keen to deny myself flashbacks. Obviously, in the book, there's a great deal about what happens to Clarissa and Richard as young people, and that informs the book in a wonderful way. But we already had three stories, and the idea of flashing back within one of those stories seemed to me a bad one. I wanted to do it through the things the characters said, and the way they were together, rather than by showing it. I think that by denying yourself those routes out, you put a discipline on things which is much richer."

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