Monday, July 21, 2008

"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle [of Nym] . . ." —Richard II

Nim’s Island. Dir. Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin. Perf. Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, and Gerard Butler. Walden Media, 2008.

On our way back from Israel, we watched (some more often than others) Nim's Island. Although it is by no means a full-scale Shakespearean Derivative, it does have a number of Shakespearean moments. I mean besides the protagonist's name (inspired by the second tetralogy but modernized in its spelling).

The plot concerns a father and a daughter who are stranded on an island. Sound familiar, anyone? Actually, they're not so much stranded as self-marooned, but it works out to the same thing, more or less.

Anyway, there's a storm—a real tempest of a storm, in fact—and uncouth strangers arrive on the island soon after and are subjected to seemingly-magical and definitely-odd happenings.

Yes, Nim's Island is a loose retelling of The Tempest!

All right, very loose.

But there is a wonderful moment where Nim, meeting a boy of about her age, smooshes her finger in his cheek (to see if he's really real) and says, "I didn't expect you to look like that."

We only have to turn to Act V, scene i for its equivalent:
                                                             O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!  (V.i.182-85)
Yes, I know it loses a little bit in the adaptation . . . but still . . . .

Finally, it's actually quite a good film. There are some suspenseful (and possibly scary) moments, but it still seemed quite appropriate for children and adults alike.

Links: Official site for the movie.  Click below to purchase the book from (and to support Bardfilm as you do so). 


Wendy Orr said...

I'm intrigued. I didn't consciously draw on the Tempest.. but as I've been musing over your blog, I do remember considering naming the lizard Caliban, so it must have been in my thoughts at some stage. (It's now ten years since I wrote the book, and difficult to remember the exact machinations.)

But I'm having trouble working out your reference to her name. At the time I was playing with the Hawaiian word for coconut niu, but may have been subconsciously influenced by the association with nymph - or something else I haven't worked out. Can you explain more of this reference?

(I know you're talking about the movie, but it was closely based on my book,although I didn't allow the tourists to actually land on the island.)

kj said...

Thanks very much for your comment! It's intriguing to have a glimpse into the creative process and to hear a bit about the way an author's mind works.

I'm embarrassed to say that we haven't yet read the book. In our family, the general rule is that you need to read the book in order to be able to see the film based on the book . . . and that (mostly) applies to Shakespeare films as well! But the airplane's library was sadly lacking in any fiction worth reading (with the possible exception of the arrival times), and it was a long, long flight, so we broke the rule. Although we requested the book from our local library as soon as we got back home, we're still waiting for it to come in.

All that because I feel guilty at confusing anyone with that throwaway joke about the spelling of Nim's name. There's a character named "Nym" in Henry V. That's all. I was grasping for straws—trying to find any conceivable Shakespearean connection in any one of the films available on the flight back from Israel. The film based on your book was the closes thing I could find—though I know it's a stretch.

I am glad to learn that something related to The Tempest was floating around when you wrote the book. And I'm glad you chose "Fred" instead of "Caliban" for the lizard. Somehow, "Caliban" gives the wrong tone.

But thank you very much for the comment! And I'll let you know what the children think of the book!


p.s. Is this the point where I admit that I'm not a Shakespeare scholar and that, instead, I'm an eleven-year-old girl lost in the Bodleian Library while my dad is attempting to recover the lost etymology of the verb "to nim" (which the OED indicates is an archaic word meaning "to take")? Or should I save that for another time?


kj said...

Also, I'd love to know what you thought of the film!


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest