Adapting novels to screen can be a laborious process of distilling prose into drama and transferring all the descriptive detail into a visual format. Luckily for Christos Tsiolkas’ multi-award winning novel The Slap, the structure of his story proved to be very conducive to adaptation.
As Jessica Hobbs, the set director of the first two episodes of this eight-part series explained, “It was calling out for an adaptation, as soon as you read it, it was incredibly visual.”
The original novel is broken up into eight different chapters, each with a different character as narrator expressing their point of view. “The devise was so wonderful because each week you step into the shoes of a different character while the story kept moving inexorably forward,” said Hobbs, adding, “and it creates this great tension and I think for the audience it provides this rare insight into individual points of view because often you’re telling things from a much more universal point of view, particularly in television.” When the novel first came out, despite being showered with critical praise and awards, Hobbs said there were mixed feelings from the readers about how best to relate to the different characters.
“So we’re hoping when they get into a more three dimensional sense and you’re dealing with a person that you’re looking at, whether you can judge them just as harshly.” The first two episodes are being screened for the first time as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival with the characters Hector and Anouk. “With Christos Tsiolkas’ guidance, we took more leaps from the book to the screen in terms of compacting some of the drama.
For example, in the book, Anouk’s mother died some time ago and we actually brought her back to life, but had her in the process of dying during Anouk’s chapter,” said Hobbs. There are many issues in the novel but Hobbs said, “the main premise is an incident that seemed large at the time could be brought back to some kind of perspective and starts to unravel peoples’ lives.
The reason they start to unravel is because they weren’t in a good place to start with. That’s really what The Slap does; it’s a tipping point. It’s an event that brings up everything from the surface and people have to deal with what that is.”