Canadian Helmer Xavier Dolan on Adapting 'It's Only the End of the World'

Courtesy of TIFF
'It's Only the End of the World'

"If we lost the language, I didn't see what the purpose was [in doing the movie]," says Dolan on turning a wordy, abstract play into a more conventional film.

The hard thing with adapting It's Only the End of the World is the playwright [Jean-Luc Lagarce] has a peculiar style that is completely incompatible with movies and how we talk in real life.

The first time I read it, I was disoriented and unsure about pretty much everything. How [the characters] would correct their own grammar and were so aggressive — it was not right for me.

One day, I don't know what it was, I pulled it off my shelf and suddenly understood and appreciated this weird and verbose writing style.

I knew I didn't want to lose Lagarce's style and his energy, but I wanted to make it into something more cinematic and accessible. To come 26 years after someone who's written such an impressive body of work, you can't just dismiss and start anew.

The story is very tragic but it is also trivial. It's a story of a man going home to his relatives to say he is going to die, and a lot of people can write about that, but the way he did it was unique. So, if we lost the language, I didn't see what the purpose was [in doing the movie]. 

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.