Danish writer Karen Blixen, whose memoir “Out of Africa” and short story “Babette’s Feast” were both turned into Academy Award-winning films, is now the subject of another big-screen makeover with an adaptation of her short story “The Immortal Story” set to be penned by Argentina’s Daniel Rosenfeld and Lucía Puenzo.
Argentine-French actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (“BPM (Beats per Minute)”) and Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Pain and Glory,” “Wild Tales”) have signed letters of intent to head up the cast, along with an international actor and actress, which have yet to be confirmed, Rosenfeld told Variety.
Director-producer of IDFA player “Piazzola, the Years of the Shark,” which won best documentary at Argentina’s 2018 Academy Awards, Rosenfeld has purchased rights to the story, which was adapted by Orson Welles in 1968.
Rosenfeld is currently writing the screenplay adaptation with Puenzo, one of Latin America’s most courted film directors (“XXY,” “The German Doctor”) and showrunner on Amazon’s “La Jauría,” produced by Fabula and Fremantle. Multi-prized Argentine novelist Esther Cross has also collaborated on the adaptation.
In Argentina, the big screen makeover of “The Immortal Story” is set up at Puenzo Hermanos, Historias Cinematográficas, Rosinante and Daniel Rosenfeld Films, Rosenfeld told Variety.
Included in Blixen’s final story collection, 1958’s “Anecdotes of Destiny” which she wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen, “The Immortal Story” tells an apparently simple tale. It is set in the late 19th century in Canton, now China’s Guangzhou, where Mr. Clay, a wealthy merchant, has clerk Elishama stay up at night reading old account books to him.
When they run out of accounts, Elishima reads an extract from The Book of Isaiah, which prompts Clay to ask if any of the prophecies proved true. Clay determines to turn into reality an apocryphal tale he’d once heard about a rich man who paid a sailor to go to bed with his wife and conceive an heir. Elishima ventures into town to find Virginie, the daughter of Clay’s former business partner whom he drove to suicide, to play Clay’s wife. He finds a sailor in the port who’s also willing to go along with the plan.
However slim the plot, the story has fascinated generations of readers and creators, aided by the profound ambiguity of the characters. Admiring Blixen profoundly and travelling to Copenhagen to meet her, Welles, for example, chose to write and direct “The Immortal Story” as his follow-up to “Chimes at Midnight.”
Reimagined as a period drama set in an “intriguing” Patagonia, said Rosenfeld, the film will adapt Blixen’s original text, not Welles’ film, he added, bringing an “original point of view” to the big-screen version of one of her favorite texts. Rosenfeld added that the story also turns on one of her cherished themes: a character’s desire to turn fiction into reality.
Blixen is “a storyteller who transcends all borders, which is why this film will be for international audiences as well,” Rosenfeld argued.
Rosenfeld and Puenzo are currently in talks to set up the as-yet-untitled feature as an international co-production. The screenplay will be ready for delivery at the end of the year. Chilean film composer Jorge Arriagada, who has worked with Raul Ruíz and Barbet Shroeder, will compose the film’s score.
All based out of Argentina, production outfit Puenzo Hermanos is the Puenzo family’s commercials company, which has also made features, and Historias Cinematográficas the family’s historic film production house. Rosinante was founded by Daniel Rosenfeld and Mariano Nante.