I’m writing a new chapter about the Ang Lee film ‘The Ice Storm’, and its function as a tragedy. The film is an adaptation of a novel, but with quite a different aesthetic. Here is a brief extract of my paper, for your consideration:
The Ice Storm traces the dramatic events of a single winter’s weekend in the lives of a few Connecticut suburbanites, in particular the Hood family and their neighbours the Williamses. It is 1973, and the spirit of sexual adventure arrives in these suburbs with the advent of the ‘key party’, at which the men put their keys into a bowl, and their wives in turn pick out keys assigning them a sexual partner for the night. On the night of the key party, an extraordinary snowstorm sweeps through the town, wreaking environmental havoc that parallels the built-up social chaos reaching its climax at the key party.
The novel written by Rick Moody was published in 1994, and the film by director Ang Lee was released in 1997, with Moody’s involvement as consultant.
Moody has written about his experience of the film adaptation, and made this comment:
“When I saw the final cut… the story before me was so removed from my own imagining that it was no longer necessary to think of it as my own.”
While he praised Lee’s film highly, Moody considered the film a very separate, and different, work to his own novel. One of the key differences Moody noticed was an aesthetic difference between his imagined characters and the actors who played those roles in the film:
“What I took away… was how beautiful everyone in the movie was. Of course, this had nothing to do with the book. The characters in the book looked like real people. They had bad skin, multiple canker sores, glasses. They were puffy, they didn’t exercise enough. These actors, on the other hand, were beautiful… Sometimes I was irritated by all this beauty, since it didn’t seem to have anything to do with my vision…”
In this chapter I go on to argue that the story is a Girardian tragedy, with its inevitable scapegoats. But in the film, these potential victims are no longer ugly, but beautiful. A scapegoat, in myth, is often marked as ‘different’; often ugly or deformed. Can movie-land, with its population of uniformly beautiful people, give us suitable scapegoats?