I found Morgenstern’s novel to be a read that captivated me with gorgeous sensory writing and vivid imagination. The idea of a circus (Le Cirque des Rêves) that’s only operational at night and of magicians, or illusionists rather, bound to one another – for the duration of a magical exhibition in a strikingly monochromatic world – tends to be quite breathtaking – and tragically beautiful. Every tent in this circus provides you (the reader) with an opportunity to imagine a place entirely – through physical and sensory descriptions. There are constantly sights, sounds, tastes, touches and emotions referenced that allow you to draw from your own past, and most importantly imagination, to envision this enchanted world.
While I came to care for the characters in this world – notably Celia, Marco and Bailey, I was drawn to the grand imagination on display more. One image that lingers with me, well beyond the final pages, is that of the ice garden and it’s wishing tree. The idea – and romanticism – of an ice garden with hidden fragrances intrigues me enough, but factor in a wishing tree adorn with candles and I’m hooked. There’s something about it that inspires me – and it’s the idea that people ignite their wishes (candles) from the wishes (flames) of others. It’s a beautiful and very cinematic image.
Which brings me to my desire to see this novel adapted into a feature film. After completing a quick online search, I found that the film/TV rights to The Night Circus were optioned by Summit Entertainment (part of Lionsgate) in 2012. From what I’ve found, the film is in development and the script being written by Moira Buffini (writer of Jane Eyre). While reading the novel I came to the conclusion that The Night Circus (tentatively titled) can go one of two ways:
1. It could easily be transformed into a Twilight-esque fantasy film with juvenile romanticism and easily-dated special effects, or…
2. It could be transformed into something beautiful – a contemporary masterpiece that pushes the boundaries of special effects and that could (should) inspire beautiful art, cinematography and costumes.
The world created by The Night Circus lends itself entirely to special effects. As such, in extremely capable hands, Morgenstern’s world can be visualized – and could be a hybrid of The Prestige and The Hunger Games. For this to happen, I thought I’d do a little fantasy “casting.” My vision for this world would see it directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige, Inception), or Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). Each of those directors have strengths (and a filmography) that suggest they’d make it as beautiful as Morgenstern’s writing suggests it should be.
I think the Wachowskis would add the fantastical element this story needs – as such they’d be my first choice. Watch The Matrix or Cloud Atlas and you’ll see they have a knack for creating bizarre, yet breathtaking works that appeal to the imaginations of viewers. Under their direction, I believe the characters and the circus – through the nuanced timeline – would benefit most from their familiarity with pacing (based on time-jumping) and gorgeous special effects. Fantasy is their specialty.
Then, if the Wachowskis were unavailable, I’d choose either Christopher Nolan or Francis Lawrence. Both directors have previous experience with circus or illusion-based films. Nolan has a knack for creating gritty worlds in which his characters (and actors) thrive. Celia and Marco would likely be markedly darker in Nolan’s hands, but the actors portraying them would likely turn in authentic, award-worthy performances – and the movie itself would probably garner praise from critics and moviegoers alike. Nolan would be the director to give The Night Circus the dark undertone it presents – and the conflicted characters it needs.
And if the script doesn’t recognize/call for such unnerving darkness or conflict – and instead chooses to rest of the pure imagination and love story, I’d have Francis Lawrence as the director. While he’s currently directing The Hunger Games franchise, he’d be the perfect director to balance the dark undertone with any scripted Twilight-ization – meaning, if the writing calls for a love story akin to Bella-Edward, Lawrence would be sure to deliver something better, like Katniss-Peta from The Hunger Games or Marlena-Jacob from Water for Elephants. Lawrence takes what could easily trend into juvenile/young adult territory and directs in a way that adds maturity and finesse, while remaining able to connect to that target (young adult) audience.
Finally, while I was reading The Night Circus, a list of actors crept into my mind for a few of the parts: