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Print to Projector: Concrete Island

By  · Published on December 5th, 2010

As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to.

This week, Print to Projector presents the story of a man buried alive buried alive in his car trapped in space stuck between two boulders stranded in between two highways on a small grass island where his survival and sanity depend on a few cases of wine and the sheer will to live.

Concrete Island

By J.G. Ballard

“Soon after three o’clock on the afternoon of April 22nd 1973, a 35-year-old architect named Robert Maitland was driving down the high-speed exit lane of the Westway interchange in central London.”


The fad of placing a singular actor in a small space and yelling, “ACT!” at them has bubbled up recently with Buried, 127 Hours, Wrecked and a few other proposed projects. For some, it’s an oasis in a dramatic desert. For others, it’s a urine-soaked bandana. Still, who better to adapt next than the author of the novel that was adapted into David Cronenberg’s Crash?

His “Concrete Island” is like eating a single potato chip covered in pixie dust. It’s something perfectly satisfying that leaves an insatiable craving, even if you can’t figure out if the talking manatee in front of you is real or not.

The minimalist work here is incredibly compelling, drawing you in with simple sentences to a complicated situation. Maitland has crashed his vehicle into an embankment that can’t be viewed from the highway, accessed safely, and like creamy frosting on your favorite baked confection, no one has any reason to suspect he’s missing.

What results is a sort of Cast Away in plain sight – a surreal experience of one man lost in the heart of a city, surrounded by millions and alone.

Potential Problems

This story faces the same story telling challenge of others like it, but it’s the perfect blue print for a slow burn character study.

The Pitch

Writing/Directing: The possibility here of a reunion is too good to pass up, especially with his current career resurgence. David Cronenberg is definitely the right man for the job. His attention to the core of humanity, even when drawn from another author’s work, is one of his strong points, and it would give him a chance to create a complete tonal foil to Crash. A quiet hell.


Clive Owen as Robert Maitland: Several other actors have gotten the chance to serve up their chops for an audience in this particular arena, and there are few actors out there with the gravitas and range out there to go a little crazy in the middle of London. He’s a great choice to see descend into madness.

Who Owns It:

The rights were bought a few years back by Machinist director Brad Anderson – ostensibly for Christian Bale to star in. That pairing is not too shabby. However, nothing’s been done with the project yet. Anderson first claimed he was looking to do it back in 2008, Bale alluded to being attached to the project in 2009, but that’s where the trail goes cold. As with most things, it either means the project is dead, stalled out, or will be announced tomorrow.

For what it’s worth, Anderson is a strong choice for the story being told here, and Bale (especially through The Machinist) can deliver on the acting front.

The Projection:

Since the trend has been recognized, it’s probably already dead. Thus, anyone getting to the game this late might not get any parting favors. Trends aside, though, this novel is a long, strange standstill that yields a fantastical result – something that’s raw and rife for the dramatic plucking in a world where actors are looking to dominate the screen with their presence. It might have also done for highways what Jaws did for Martha’s Vineyard if people weren’t already riding their bikes to work.

At the very least, it would ensure people kept a case of wine in their trunks at all times, and that’s a public service announcement worth making.

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