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Perfect Call: Guillermo Del Toro to Adapt Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant” as Animated Film

By Alberto Cox Délano | Film | February 9, 2023 |

By Alberto Cox Délano | Film | February 9, 2023 |


If you want to get an idea of how underrated the medium of Animation is, do the following exercise: Think of a list of films you could positively call “epic,” however you might define it, but only those that are under two hours long. Now take out animated films from that list. That’s a much shorter list, ain’t it?

In a recent interview with The Telegraph (paywalled, sadly), Guillermo Del Toro announced that, for his next animated feature, he will adapt Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, which will start pre-production in the following months, but we will have to wait a little while, as GDT’s next project will be a live-action feature, probably his adaptation of Frankenstein. The adaptation is being co-written with Dennis Kelly, writer of Channel 4’s Utopia and, most recently, adapted Matilda: the Musical for the screen.

OK, let’s address the buried giant in the room: Netflix, for the love of Liberation Theology Christ, do not mess this up. Your Silicon Valley suits are literally the only point of failure for such a wonderful piece of news. Funding El Guille’s unrealized projects might very well justify the subscription fees … at least for the year they are released. Plus, this is just a way to mint awards, and not just in the Animation medium.

If you haven’t read it, The Buried Giant is a fantasy novel set in Sub-Roman Britain (400-600ish A.D.), proper Dark Ages as very few written registers exist, and also the era most associated with the Arthurian myths. It tells the story two elderly Britons, Axl and Beatrice, who go in search of their son. A magical mist covers Britain that gives its inhabitants collective amnesia, a past that might involve the historical traumas of the Saxon invasions. In their travels, they meet the elderly Sir Gawain and their own remembrances. It’s one of the most beautiful things many of us have read, and I bet most thought the same when reading it: This could only be adapted as an Animated film. There is no way you could capture that intersection of fantasy, horror, historical epic and its themes with a live-action film … well, perhaps David Lowery could.

But Animation is still the perfect medium to reflect the winding beauty of Ishiguro’s prose. El Guille is the perfect man for the job, not just because of his commitment to the medium and fantasy in general, but also because he is Latino. Reading The Buried Giant as a Latino person… well, it hits in a particular way.

The Buried Giant is about collective memory, more specifically, about the perils of suppressing said collective memory in order to preserve social harmony, and how this relationship with the collective imaginary impacts the intimate. Why, that’s the History of every single Latin American country! Being very aware of the recent historical traumas, and having to content with forces that would really, really like us to close that chapter, against the collective need to recover Memory as the last reduct of truth in a system that would rather dillute it. And for those asking “Isn’t that the same as in the US and the UK”, you’d be right, is just that we have been more successful in Latin America at delving into Historical Memory. These themes come naturally to Latin artists like Guillermo Del Toro, and I bet something similar happened to Ishiguro when writing this novel, as a British Asian man.

Additionally, in being an adult Animation project, this adaptation has another thing going for it: It might convince some people that Animation is a serious thing. With its themes and pedigree, I think it has the potential to become the first Animated movie to win the Big Academy Awards. Get it going Netflix.

Alberto Cox totally has no expectations that Guillermo Del Toro will read this and check the playlist of music that he thinks would be perfect for this movie… how did you know it’s mostly Florence and the Machine songs?