Proustian Moments: the Difficulty of Adapting Multiple Volume Novels

Guillaume Gallienne, the French filmmaker behind the comedy Me, Myself and Mum (2013), is attempting to crack Proust’s mammoth novel cycle In Search of Lost Time (À la Recherche du Temps Perdu) as a TV series.


Gallienne has teamed with Marseille producer Federation Entertainment, Cinéfrance Studios, and Don’t Be Shy to produce La Recherche. The show was unveiled at Series Mania in Lille.


Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time, which was first published in 1913, consists of seven volumes and follows the narrator’s recollections of childhood and experiences into adulthood, during late 19th century to early 20th century aristocratic France, while reflecting on the loss of time and lack of meaning to the world.



Me Myself and Mum - Official Trailer


A fool’s errand? – or is the time (sic) now ripe?


We’ve had three goes so far – the most watchable (to me) was Volker Schlöndorff’s Swann in Love, a sliver of the book series concentrated on the (much) sexier parts, with Jeremy Irons, Ornella Mutti and Alain Delon.


Swann In Love Trailer 1984


1999’s Time Regained (which concentrated on Proust’s final volume) had its moments, aided by a strong cast (Malkovich, Béart, Deneuve) but 2011’s series failed in the attempt to cover the entire cycle in just two 114 minute episodes.


Time Regained | Trailer | New Release


Adapting weighty multi-novel tomes is always going to be daunting, witness the failure of Sword of Honour (starring a young Daniel Craig), A Dance to the Music of Time and Atlas Shrugged, all of which outweigh the rare successes such as Patrick Melrose and arguably the BBC’s 2016 take on War & Peace.


Acorn TV | Sword of Honour trailer


In the 60s/70s/80s adaptations of  middlebrow works The Forsyte SagaBarchester Chronicles and The Pallisers all found appreciative audiences in the UK at the time, but they all look very dated to today’s viewers.


ITV revived The Forsyte Saga (2002-03) to mixed reviews – despite a strong cast that included Damien Lewis and Ioan Gruffudd.


'The Forsyte Saga ' mini series trailer ~ Old!


From the Deadline article


Gallienne said, “Should we live every minute as if it were the first or last of our life. Is beauty what we live, or the stories our memories create? Give me 24 hours and I’ll give you an answer. Not mine, but that of Marcel Proust, in the most beautiful saga ever written ‘Remembrance of things past’. As much as to lift Proust’ work out of it’s personal museum as to make it my own, I have chosen to set ‘Remembrance’ in the 1970’s-90’s. This was a period where time was not accelerated. Telephones were still attached to cords, aristocrats still had servants and my grandmother was still alive. These years were our yesterdays, and if for some they were considered as Post-war, for us they were already our Pre-war.”

Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'