Cormac McCarthy’s blood meridian is a novel that has long since earned a great reputation. Due to its dense prose and extreme content, it’s a story that apparently remains better suited for the pages of a book rather than a reel of film. While that hasn’t stopped a plan to eventually adapt the film for the big screen, it has certainly kept the project moving forward at a glacial pace. Suddenly, however, early 2023 brought with it the news of a blood meridian On-site adaptation. Directed by John Hillcoat, who previously directed another McCarthy adaptation on The waythis adaptation comes with a special screenwriter: Cormac McCarthy himself.
But even with the original author writing this future movie, it’s blood meridian really meant to be adapted to another medium? Is it possible to do it without sacrificing what made the original story so compelling? Let’s take a look at why this bloody Western is so notorious, and how other McCarthy novels made the transition to film more naturally by comparison.
Why can’t Blood Meridian be filmed?
For those who are not familiar with blood meridian, a brief synopsis of the story may be of your benefit. We follow a teenager called simply “the kid” somewhere on the American frontier as we chronicle his various interactions with the Glanton gang.
The gang, made up of “scalp hunters” who prioritized hunting Native Americans, is led by a strange man named Judge Holden, a hulking, pale figure without an ounce of hair on his entire body. Throughout the story, the boy and Holden interact both before the gang’s involvement and after its disbandment, traveling through the American countryside on a violent journey that spans decades.
To bluntly paraphrase McCarthy’s work is a great disservice to McCarthy’s work: blood meridian it looks surprisingly tame from a cursory summary. But it’s not so much the story itself that’s difficult to adapt as how it’s portrayed. blood meridian it is infamous for its brutal depictions of violence, with neither side in a conflict showing any form of mercy.
The carnage, often depicted through McCarthy’s trademark run-of-the-mill prose, is often rendered nightmarish and frenetic, with entire pages devoted to a single, gruesome string of words. This violence, combined with examinations of humanity’s devotion to war, the need for domination, and the role of mercy, leads to a story that can only truly flourish in the written world. Arguably the censorship guidelines alone would cut down on most of what he does blood meridian so harrowing and effective to begin with, not to mention the financial and logistical requirements to bring this portrayal of the frontier to life.
But there is a little hope that can be had. According to Hillcoat, the script for blood meridian is being written by Cormac McCarthy himself, allowing the author to bring his vision to the screen in the most authentic way possible. As for how Hillcoat will direct this material, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Why do other McCarthy adaptations work?
Not that all of McCarthy’s work is immune to adaptation. The universally loved No country for old menplus a slightly less beloved adaptation of The way Directed by Hillcoat, both exist as interesting interpretations of their respective novels. We’re not going to sit here and act like they’re bad, but these two examples differ wildly from blood meridian in terms of its structure, presentation and content.
The wayfor example, it is a book that addresses a similar degree of human depravity and darkness compared to blood meridian. But while The way focuses more on an emotional core between its father and son leads, exploring a broken world with vague dreams of what could have been an idealized life, blood meridian it’s a much denser novel that focuses on grander themes. Similarly, No country for old men is a more thoughtful novel, looking at the role of chaos and how changing times directly affect an aging sheriff.
It is worth noting that No country for old menThe fantastic film adaptation is probably due in part to how the original novel was written. If you didn’t know, the original novel is, oddly enough, an adaptation of a script that languished in its original form. That would explain why the writing of the book is comparably simplistic to blood meridian and because No country for old men made such a natural transition to the big screen.
Although directors like James Franco or Zack Snyder have shown interest in tackling a film version of blood meridian, Hillcoat taking the role feels like an appropriate choice. Even going beyond his previous experience with McCarthy adaptations, he and the auteur have apparently formed a strong professional relationship that will likely result in a movie that is watchable enough. At the very least, a lousy adaptation of blood meridian it can be fun riffing material.