July 19, 2008 / 10:16 PM / 10 years ago

Brazilian director swaps Saramago for Shakespeare

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - After more than a year poring over Jose Saramago’s book “Blindness” for the upcoming movie of the same name, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles is embarking on a new literary journey with William Shakespeare.

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles attends a news conference for his film "Blindness" at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, May 14, 2008. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Meirelles this week started shooting the TV series “Sound and Fury,” about a Shakespearean theater group in crisis, and his next movie will be a loose adaptation of the playwright’s comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

“Shakespeare is a heavy drug,” said Meirelles said in an exchange of emails. “The more you read, the more you want to read. Each line has poetry, philosophy, a deep understanding of what we are.”

The movie is based on a Brazilian adaptation of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” by moviemaker Jorge Furtado, who is also writing the script.

The film, for which shooting will start next year, is set in New York and London, following a Brazilian boy who gets a scholarship to study Shakespeare abroad with students from around the world. In the book, he falls in love with an Arabian student.

The Brazilian TV show is based on the Canadian program “Slings and Arrows.”

“It’s a romantic comedy more about the actors than the plays, but it will have beautiful passages of Shakespeare works,” said Meirelles, who burst onto the international scene with 2002’s “City of God,” a four-time Oscar nominated saga of violence in Rio de Janeiro’s slums.

The 52-year old Sao Paulo native said he wanted to work with something lighter to balance the heavy themes of movies he has made in the last few years, including 2005’s “The Constant Gardener,” about a man who tries to solve his wife’s murder in Kenya.

His latest movie is also a grim drama, the English-language adaptation of “Blindness,” about an epidemic that lays waste to a fictional country. It opened the Cannes Film Festival this year and is set to be released internationally in September.

Saramago, a Portuguese who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998, wept after seeing it with Meirelles in a movie theater recently — a scene posted by the director’s son on YouTube.

“To my surprise, he got emotional and said he was as happy to see the movie as he was when he finished writing the book. It was the best gift I could receive,” Meirelles said.

“Blindness” has co-producers from Brazil, Canada and Japan, and an international cast headed by American actress Julianne Moore. Beyond the physical sickness, the blindness is also psychological, explains Meirelles, a disease that could infect countries and civilizations.

When asked if the blindness could refer to Brazil and its political corruption, he said a better candidate was the United States, which he called “very blind” for electing President George W. Bush twice.

“They have elected twice the same obviously inadequate guy, and they can’t see beyond their own country,” Meirelles said. “In Brazil I feel we have more desire to look at ourselves. But all these are generalizations, always dangerous, so I should stop it here.”


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