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As I Lay Dying [Import]

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Format: NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: Alchemy / Millennium
  • Release Date: Nov. 5 2013
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
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Product Description

As I Lay Dying

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Format: DVD
When Addie (Beth Grant), the family matriarch dies, her husband Anse (Tim Blake Nelson) vows to keep his promise to her and return her to Jefferson City for burial, something that will require a few days travel. The family packs up and takes off. Anse believes that God will find a way for them to complete their task. As it turns out, it was the worse possible decision.

The film, like the book utilizes excessive narration. It was annoying as was the split screen effect. The split screen was overdone. It was used to show the two angles of the same event; two simultaneous events; the same event past and present; an event with narration; plus dead people talking. Faulkner captures the struggles of uneducated folk during the Great Depression, almost in a Monty Pythonesque dark comedy fashion. Tim Blake Nelson gave us an Oscar worthy performance in a sea of great performances. Not since "Winter Bone" have I witnessed such great country portrayals.

This was a difficult film to stay the course. I almost ejected the disc on two occasions. However, to say I didn't like it, wouldn't be correct either. I think the adaptation stayed too close to the annoying features book. A more creative screen play, "inspired" by the book might have made a better film. Anse has no teeth, chews tobacco, is uneducated, and speaks with a thick accent. About 10 minutes into the film I turned on the English subscripts.

This film is not for everyone. I can't imagine watching it again.

Parental Guide: No f-bombs. Sex. Brief male nudity.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9bc03414) out of 5 stars 145 reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a03ef90) out of 5 stars Valiant attempt at clarifying an opaque book Oct. 22 2013
By Doug Hungarter - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
James Franco has made a valiant attempt at clarifying an opaque novel. However, there is a reason this story has not been adapted to film in the past: Faulkner's South belongs in print.

The movie tries a little too hard, over-utilizing split screen shots to convey the novel's multiple narrator roles. It made me feel like I was watching an olde-tymey version of 24. The extreme close-up monologues were intense and haunting, staying true to the Faulkner's voice, if not adding clarity to the storyline. The film is beautifully shot and well-acted, but felt as much like homework as my initial high school reading of this book (I enjoyed the re-read much more when I was all growsed up).

Overall, "As I Lay Dying" is a solid (if slightly off-the-mark) homage to a great literary work.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a03f1d4) out of 5 stars Much better than I expected Jan. 7 2014
By Austin Fitzgerald - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'm not going to waste everyone's time debating whether or not this film should have been made. It's been made.

First of all, this was so much better than I expected. On paper, some of the casting decisions look atrocious, but no one turns in a bad performance. Franco, as Darl, is (unsurprisingly) unable to explore Darl's mind the way Faulkner did in the original novel, and much of the "who" and the "why" of the character is left for the viewer to interpret. Of course, the novel itself relied heavily on the interpretation of the reader, so I'm not going to be too hard on Franco for that. As for the actors that looked terrible on paper...well, for me, they were Danny McBride as Vernon Tull and Logan Marshall-Green as Jewel. The latter, I have to say, BLEW ME AWAY. I can honestly say he stole the show for me. In the novel, my favorite character was always Darl, but Marshall-Green's performance had me focusing more on Jewel throughout the course of the film. Interestingly, Franco frames Jewel like a saint in some of the film's more beautiful camerawork, leading me to wonder whether the director saw Jewel as more of a protagonist than I did. Now, to McBride. What, you say? Danny McBride in a role like this? Favoritism on Franco's part, perhaps? These were the things I thought before seeing the film. Fortunately, it doesn't matter either way, because Vernon Tull's character is significantly downplayed in the film, and his wife Cora is cut out almost entirely. Still, McBride doesn't do anything he shouldn't, and while I still can't say I understand the casting, there isn't really enough for his character to do for me to judge his performance.
Also, Tim Blake Nelson. If you only see this film for one reason, let it be Tim Blake Nelson. His immersion into the character of Anse, patriarch of the Bundren family is complete; he manages to walk that rare line where if he'd have hammed it up a bit more, it would have been caricature, and if he'd have downplayed it just a tad, the character would have been ineffectual. As he is, Nelson nails the character. His accent, hampered by the character's abominable dentistry, is suitably garbled, and the truth of his words suitably ambiguous.
For the sake of completion, Ahna O'Reilly, Jim Parrack, and Brady Permenter were spot-on as Dewey Dell, Cash, and the intriguing Vardaman, respectively, but seriously. Tim Blake Nelson.

Now, on to the film itself. Franco attempts to bring Faulkner's kaleidoscopic narrative to film with the use of split screens, and I can't say I can think of a better way. However, his use of this technique varies from inspired to meaningless to confused. The chief issue I had was when two versions of the same event were presented side by side (a fantastic idea) but one of them was quite obviously not from anyone's point of view. I would have appreciated seeing these scenes through the eyes of two different characters, but instead I get X's view, and then another extraneous camera angle. It's like watching a deleted scene (I can almost hear Franco saying, "We COULD have shot it this way...). At other times, though, the technique works brilliantly, as when we see Dewey Dell hearing Darl's words, yet we see that Darl's lips are not moving. Is Darl actually saying anything? Is Dewey Dell reading his body language? Or could they have a telepathic connection? This is the kind of scene that justifies bringing the book to film.

Many will be pleased that the story survives in pretty much its complete form. In many cases the characters are speaking right out the book. Speaking of which, I'm sure you've noticed how hearing dialogue straight from a book can sound very fake and affected? Surprisingly, I didn't feel that way while watching this one. The actors become their characters to such an extent that words belong to the characters, not to Faulkner and his novel. Unfortunately, towards the end, the story becomes incredibly confusing to anyone who hasn't read the book. This is mostly due to Franco's inability to show what's going on in Darl's head. In the book, there is enough there for readers to form all sorts of interpretations about what happens. In the film, Franco hasn't given us enough of Darl to allow for complete understanding of the event itself, let alone interpretations as to the motivations behind it.

Overall, I was very pleased that the film was not atrocious (which I was expecting) and overjoyed that it turned out to be a very good film. While it may not accomplish anything that the book did not, it gives the characters a face. Tim Blake Nelson turns in an outstanding performance as Anse Bundren, Logan Marshall-Green is just as good as Jewel, and we even get a surprisingly nuanced sequence pertaining to Vardaman that lends the film a sense of sympathy the book did not possess. All in all, it is certainly a worthwhile experience. Here's the but: read the book first. Not only because the book is always better (in this case, it's one of the greatest literary achievements of all time), but because knowledge of the book is necessary for an understanding of the ending, and for a deeper understanding of the characters and story as a whole (Darl especially). See it, people! Complaining about the vile, satanic Franco and his unending blasphemous attacks on the bronzed giants of literature just serves to cement popular opinion about the literary establishment being an old men's club. Read some Stephen King and shut up.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a03f4a4) out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised Nov. 19 2013
By jbiv771 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Let me preface this review by stating that I have never read Faulkner's novel. I also am not the biggest James Franco fan. However, I do love classic novels and 127 Hours is a favorite of mine so it wasn't a stretch for me to give up two hours of my time to give the movie a chance. I imagine this movie will only attract fans who for the most part know what they are getting themselves into so keeping that in mind, this movie is not for everyone. If you are sitting around on a Saturday night and your wife says, "Ooh this looks interesting. I love James Franco," you are better off passing. If however you are of the "indie" film ilk and/or an avid reader of famous novels you should consider lending this movie your time. Franco does well as director of the film and the acting is top notch. The plot of the movie is just short of tragic and certainly not uplifting so don't expect any sunshine. All of Faulkner's characters are flawed and everyone in the film loses more than just their mother "Addie." The movie begins with the matriarch of the family passing and continues with the family embarking on an oddesy to bury her. The movie can be a little slow and overly artistic, but it is not enough to condemn Franco's direction. My only complaint is that Franco employs too many split-screen shots ala Danny Boyle (the director of 127 hours). All in all I enjoyed the film enough to recommend it to anyone willing to give it a shot.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a03f768) out of 5 stars suprisingly excellent Nov. 6 2013
By Kevin - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
in my opinion, this was a surprisingly excellent adaptation of the novel.

franco delivers the worst acting performance of the cast, but it certainly isn't a bad performance and the rest of the cast are excellent in their roles. the film uses some art house devices to capture the unique nature of the novel, which may be off-putting to some, but franco's directorial methods are not overly heavy-handed or obtuse.

truthfully, if you have not read as i lay dying (or have an interest in southern gothic/lit fiction) than this film is probably not for you. if you are "in" to this kind of literature and are intrigued by an art house interpretation of one of the greatest english language novels, then it is definitely worth the price of the rental.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a03f990) out of 5 stars Franco's Profound Translation of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying Nov. 17 2013
By Drew Odom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
James Franco's As I Lay Dying inevitably differs from Faulkner's. In the novel, the Bundren home and farm lie on a hill, hard to reach, where Doc Peabody has to be hauled up by a rope. Cash limps from an earlier fall, but his leg at the end is not amputated. Jewel is a whole head taller than the others.

An important section in the novel, Darl being transported to Jackson by train, is left out of the film. Except for Anse's and perhaps Jewel's, the faces in the movie belong too much to our time and not the `twenties in Mississippi. Some of the clothing is too contemporary as well. In the film, Dewey Dell is too much a girl of our own day, more a woman, and much too beautiful. The landscape is too unvaried; the novel moves from Mississippi hill country toward (without actually entering into) the delta.

Such variations could be expanded. But they do not matter. If you want to read Faulkner, read him. Franco's movie is not a substitute for that nor does it mean to be. It is a work of translation. I think one has to see the film in and for itself, though I do not know how someone who has not read the novel might respond to it. In a sense, it is a work of the grandest plagiarism, since so much of the language is Faulkner's, shifted about, cut hugely, altered, and, at times, even changed, beginning as the novelist's language and then becoming Franco's. Toward the end of the movie, Darl speaks words that are found in the novel in Addie's monologue. But the film requires its own place and dress and faces. What I have just noted, and the differences could proliferate, does not matter because the movie is a different sort of experience, bound to a different sort of watchfulness.

For example, the scene of the crossing of the flooded river, though in detail not Faulkner's scene, is brilliant, moving, astonishing to see. So, too, is the whole sequence when Darl sets fire to Gillespie's barn. Addie was extraordinary, her look, her speech, her placement in the frame. The language of the book is often powerfully visualized. In that translation, too, the novel is turned into film, albeit a different, and distinct, work of art.

If Faulkner's novel has an ontological depth the film lacks, so be it. Faulkner was obsessed with a religious sense of the person in the absence of any belief he could muster in God or anything like a god. Darl's anguish is, to make use of another fancy word, existential. (There is no mention in the movie of his having fought in France, an intriguing omission.) Darl confronts the world in his and its absence. He is words, words, words as Jewel is deeds, doing, action, impulse. I will not go on. Faulkner remains an artist of an historical moment when the fundamental, the oldest questions remained not only worth asking, but demanding to be asked. Perhaps that is still so for some. I'd like to think so, but the film seems to be more bound to a sense of an absurd fatality, the journey itself therefore intensified because of the way it ends, in disaster. The end in the novel is disastrous, too, but only for some, not for all. Cash is changed, after all, and his new complexity is not nothing. The sensibilities of novel and film, therefore, are different. One might say they adhere to different beliefs, to different ways of seeing the world, views that often intersect, as in translation, but which cannot be the same. The two works, book and film, the two artists, Faulkner and Franco, exist, through Franco's intervention, in a dialogue with one another. This is the essence of translation, its necessary, inevitable transpositions.

Franco's use of the split screen cannot give a sense of interiority of Faulkner's monologues, of course, but it can offer instead the doubleness, even better the plurality of perspective that is the film's obsession, even to the moment (wonderful) when the muddy river itself is twice seen. This "doubling" is necessarily more restrictive than Faulkner's use of multiple narrations. Film in some ways is always more limited, imaginatively limited, than literature. That is, it is so if it is seen as a substitute art. Bresson, of course, would have none of that. Theater was one thing; "cinematography," by which he meant a film, is another. The split screen, then, eliminates over and over again the possibility of a single and therefore stable vision.

It is this instability that strikes me as part of Franco's vision. Look at how much time he spends on people's looking, just looking or staring and, occasionally, seeing. No one sees what anyone else sees. That is Faulknerian enough, of course. Narrative in Faulkner is almost always at least doubly bound. But we are often, in his As I Lay Dying, always, within a character. It is a matter of plurality rather than of doubling. In the movie, not even in the voiceovers, are you in them, in the characters. The split screen is distancing. You are always outside, listening in, as the language spoken combines and clashes with what is seen. It is a wholly different way of viewing the world, in short. What is fine about the film for me, then, is how much of Faulkner's "poetry" remains within it even though it is transposed. Faulkner's novel might be in part about the anguish of meaning; Franco's is more about its impossibility. That is much too glibly said. But I hope it might intimate some of what I see.

The movie is undoubtedly the finest translation of a Faulkner novel to film. The few others are worthless or ludicrous. Franco's film on Hart Crance, The Broken Tower, may be the best movie ever made about a poet. His As I Lay Dying, seen for itself, in its subtle greens and browns and yellows, in its recurrently stunning and provocative vision, is one of the best re-imaginings of a novel into film. It is also one of the few genuinely serious movies directed by an American that I have seen during the last few years, as original and accomplished as Kelly Reichardt's work, for example.

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