25 July 2016

Kirsten Dunst to Adapt Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

On Wednesday, 20 July, it was announced that Kirsten Dunst is set to make her directorial debut with a new adaptation of Sylvia Plath's only finished novel, The Bell Jar, starring Dakota Fanning in the lead role as Esther Greenwood. Since then, the news has gone viral which is not surprising in the least.

In 2007, word spread that a film was in the works headlined by Julia Stiles and Tristine Skyler (screenplay), but unfortunately this project did not come to fruition. In fact, a blog post about the project was the second post ever here on the Sylvia Plath Info Blog. In May 2008, I posted a letter from Julia Stiles herself on this blog about the project.

We can and should lament that the Stiles/Skyler project never happened. I witnessed them conducting research at Smith College and provided information and resources when asked. So I know first-hand the lengths to which they went in creating a screenplay that would honor Plath herself and the work she did in writing The Bell Jar. And we must hope that Dunst's adaptation will display the same level of commitment -- and be as faithful as possible -- to Plath's excellent novel. I say this with the wretched liberties* taken by the writer(s) and director of 1979 film version of The Bell Jar in mind, as well as the trend recently toward restoration. What the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath and Ariel: The Restored Edition, published in 2000 and 2004 respectively, did was to begin a shift in the accessibility of Plath's original texts, representing her powerful and authentic voice and vision as she intended. (The forthcoming Letters of Sylvia Plath that I edited with Karen V. Kukil, of course, was guided by this very same principle.) These are, of course, textual works which are very different to adaptations of those works into film and can have a different audience. But I do not see why we should not hope the same of Hollywood as we do London and New York publishers.

There is no better homage to Plath's The Bell Jar than to cinematically represent, as closely to the original as possible, the novel that millions of people around the world -- of all ages, backgrounds, native languages and much more -- have read, loved, re-read, related to, and recommended for more than half a century.

All links accessed 22 July 2016.

*These liberties resulted, in part, in a famous, or rather infamous, lawsuit.


Rehan Qayoom said...

I agree with your sentiments. It can be adapted accurately, loyally and lovingly. The 1981 film adaptation of Waugh's masterpiece Brideshead Revisited has widely been acknowledged as the finest film adaptation ever made. It is also very true to the novel.

Bobby Plasencia said...

Interestingly enough, I have spent the last three years adapting The Bell Jar to the screen hoping to get Julia Stiles interested in getting involved again. Unfortunately, it seems I have been beaten to the finish line by Kirsten Dunst! Sadness. But all is not lost. I would love to share my screenplay adaptation, which I just literally finished yesterday, with you. Perhaps you can let me know what you think, and if you like it enough, maybe help me get Julia Stiles or Kristen Dunst interested as well! :)

boston12855 said...

Life is always surprising, and ten years ago, I found myself sitting next to Kirsten Dunst at Bryce Dallas Howard's wedding reception (I was Bryce's teacher and advisor in middle school). To complete the small table I sat at were Henry Winkler and his wife, and Sam Waterston and his spouse. Kirsten and I chatted for almost two hours - I even had the pleasure of dancing with her - and I remember that how her eyes brightened when I said that I was originally from Wellesley, Massachusetts, the home of Sylvia Plath. I am keeping my fingers crossed that she will do justice to Sylvia's witty and yet searing text.

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.