‘Le conseiller’ and the Cinematic-Literary Hybrid

by panamericanas

Le conseiller (2013)

I was in Québec when Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor released to theatre, which forced me to attend a screening of the dubbed French version. Understanding only about one tenth of the dialogue I was left to focus on the visuals, piecing together the plot while reading on-screen body language and listening to the intonation of le doublage francophone. While the dialogue specifics were lost on me I nevertheless followed the narrative, fully enjoying the isolation of immersion as a form of cinematic engagement.

Random House published McCarthy’s original screenplay for The Counselor and I read it afterwards as a supplement to my in-theatre experience. Reading McCarthy’s text, which varies from the final edit of the screenplay used for The Counselor‘s anglophone release, gave me an altogether different experience of the film. In the cinémathèque I watched actors dislocated from their lines. It was pure movement, driven by the script, but removed from it. When I read the screenplay I recalled the scenes in my mind, remembered the mise-en-scène, the expression, the cinematography, but I fit the images and the sound and the lighting to McCarthy’s literary voice, untampered with by studio executives and producers before release. I appreciated the details of this screenplay that were omitted from the final edit, as when Malkina reveals that she is from Buenos Aires. This is a minor point, a detail that was later altered and left out of the film, but that line Buenos Aires completely changed her character and affected my reading of the film. I’m grateful that the screenplay was published in tandem with the cinematic release so I could accidentally experience this inversion of the cinematic and the literary across languages and mediums.