Charlie Kaufman possesses one of the most creative minds in the film industry today. Hell, not only are his movies regularly filled with bombastic and wild ideas, but he is the filmmaker who famously struggled to adapt a book and then turned the adaptation into a movie about that struggle. Because of this, it’s curious to see him once again go the adaptation route with his latest movie, I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, and thus I felt compelled to ask him about that choice when I recently had the chance to interview him.
Prior to the release of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things on Netflix this past weekend, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Kaufman about the new film, and my very first question out of the gate was about his original decision take author Iain Reid’s book of the same name when pursuing a new project to direct. His answer was two-fold, and you can listen to his explanation by clicking play on the video below:
Originally published in 2016, I'm Thinking Of Ending Things was author Iain Reid's debut novel, and the film that Charlie Kaufman has made largely honors what’s in the original text – albeit with more than a few flourishes that only Kaufman can provide. At the core of it all it the story of a young woman (played by Jessie Buckley) who agrees to take a trip with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to visit his parents (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) for an introductory dinner. It’s threaded in via voice over narration that the girlfriend isn’t quite sure about the future of the relationship, and as the night goes on reality begins to… morph.
What unfolds is a very special kind of existential nightmare that is very Kaufman-esque, and one can see how that would lure his attention. But as the filmmaker explained, that was only half of the attraction:
I was looking for something that I could possibly direct, and I read it and I really liked the dreaminess of it and the dream logic and the irrationality of it. And I found that very compelling. Then it was the fact that it was very small, that it was contained, that it was four characters and three locations, it seemed like something I might be able to get financing for. I've been struggling to get stuff made and this seemed like a possibility. So that's what attracted me about it.
Obviously the positive to take away from this is the fact that Charlie Kaufman wound up finding excellent and suitable material to adapt, and he wound up turning that material into a phenomenal film… but I will take a second to get hung up on the awfulness that is the fact that Kaufman struggles to get movies made. Admittedly you don’t have to being a Hollywood insider to figure out what’s going on, as his movies don’t exactly become blockbuster hits, but there are few in the industry that would disagree that his creativity is a great thing for the art form and his vision deserves support.
In the wake of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, it would be a wonderful thing to see Charlie Kaufman develop a stronger relationship with Netflix. Consistent financing and distribution would clearly be a wonderful thing, but one could also argue that availability on streaming can enhance the audience’s experience. His movies demand analysis and interpretation, and it’s certainly a lot easier when you can rewatch the work ad infinitum and jump to specific scenes with a single click.
This was actually another subject that I touched upon in my conversation with Charlie Kaufman about I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, and you can watch my full conversation with him – as well as my chat with stars Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons – below!