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James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 is certainly based on true life events, specifically Ed and Lorraine Warren’s investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist, but anyone who sees the film will recognize its departure from reality. On beyond the way that it adapts what is considered controversial material, there are also a number of elements that were added for the sake of drama and storytelling. Balancing the truth and the fiction was certainly one of the challenges of creating the movie for the director, but there’s a surprising movie that really inspired his process through it: Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, based on the Academy Award-winning script by Charlie (and Donald) Kaufman.
James Wan revealed this interesting bit of trivia when I had the chance to sit down with him one-on-one at the Conjuring 2 press day in Los Angeles this past weekend. I brought up the subject of reality versus fiction, and the filmmaker explained that Adaptation was a movie that he found tremendously helpful in his approach, given that it’s a story that is a perfect meta blend of both elements. Said Wan,
You know, the one movie, believe it or not, and actually the one filmmaker that I actually was partially inspired by… is Adaptation. It’s the perfect example of a story about a guy who was asked to adapt a true life story book and then he does something completely different with it. And so it’s like this weird mixture with Adaptation, where Charlie Kaufman writes himself into the story of him trying to adapt the book. Luckily, I didn’t write myself into my movie, but yeah, but I love the idea of taking facts and fiction and mixing the two of them together in such a way where you have absolutely no idea what is real and what isn’t real. I call it faction, fact and fiction.
For those unfamiliar with the film, Charlie Kaufman’s script for Adaptation features himself (played by Nicolas Cage) given the assignment to adapt the book "The Orchard Thief" by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). The movie manages to simultaneously be that adaptation, as well as the story of Kaufman writing the adaptation – with the two twisting together in fascinating fashion by the end of the movie. The Conjuring 2 isn’t anywhere near as narratively complex, but it does keep the audience in a persistent state of questioning what is real and what isn’t.
While The Conjuring movies are based on the true life investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren, ultimately James Wan knows that the fiction is needed to enhance the reality – and it actually makes him question a particular section of the movie-going audience: those who refuse to see the movies because they don’t believe in the Warrens’ work. Said Wan,
A lot of people that talk about The Conjuring movies and say, ‘I don’t know if I’ll enjoy those movies because I don’t believe in these people,’ right? ‘I don’t believe in their story,’ and all that stuff. I mean, you don’t have to be a time-traveling robot from the future to appreciate The Terminator, right? So, I said just enjoy this movie as a piece of entertainment! I always say I didn’t set out to make a documentary. It’s a subjective movie told through the point of view of these people that I’m trying to be respectful to.
At the end of the day, what really matters in The Conjuring movies is that you care about the characters, and that it manages to terrify you as a result. Seeing as The Conjuring 2 manages to do both, you should do yourself a favor and see it when it hits theaters this Friday, June 10th.