John Boorman's The Emerald Forest.|
By Robert Holdstock.
Based on a screenplay by Rospo Pallenberg.
New York Zoetrope, 1985.
If you're a big fan of the movie, consider reading the novel adapted from it. Yes, movie novelizations are cheesy, but this one is by the acclaimed fantasy writer Robert Holdstock, and I found it to be quite well written. It brings more detail to the mythic world Boorman created for the Invisible People, fleshing out many of the concepts that flash across the screen rather quickly. Also, the friendship between Tomme and Mapi is explored in greater depth. Mapi is a year younger than Tomme and somewhat jealous that Tomme passes his rite of passage, or "hunt-death," earlier than him. By becoming a man Tomme is allowed to marry Kachiri and to participate in dangerous hunts, and consequently, leave Mapi behind. Other aspects of the story that are fleshed out further include:
Well, I hope that's enough to pique your interest in the novel! The glossary I've made may give you an idea of some of the content that is explored further.
The UK edition, published by Penguin. Painting by Jim Burns.
The Australian edition, also by Penguin.
The back cover of the US edition.
The Emerald Forest Diary: A Filmmaker's Odyssey.
By John Boorman.
New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1985.
(out of print)
I know what you're thinking: "Am I really interested in this movie enough to read an entire book on the making of it?" Toss aside any doubts you may have and dive into this marvelous book, which is about so much more than this particular movie. Boorman's mind ranges over the topics of Brazilian culture, the destruction of the Amazon, the 20,000-year gulf that divides our culture from the rain forest natives, modern man's loss of a mythology that adds meaning to our lives, the theme that unites Emerald Forest with his earlier films Deliverance and Excalibur. He discusses the movie-making process with profound wisdom and in intricate detail, but in between his meditations on art he gives us hilarious Hollywood anecdotes and explains the elaborate, vicious business world that lies behind the images on the screen.
Both in his themes and in his vibrant, often lyrical style, Boorman recalls the greatest of prose poets, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sadly, Fitzgerald did not finish his great novel of Hollywood, but Boorman's wonderful memoir carries on the flame. Prepare to be dazzled.
Some of my favorite passages in this book:
- "Tribal life follows unchanging patterns. I saw that for us, in our world, change is the only imperative: fashion, novelty, progress, news. We crave them. They feed us. Stasis is death and so we hurtle on, faster and faster towards... what? Film-making is an expression of that neurosis of novelty, that process of inventing impossible problems for oneself and failing to solve them." (p. 8)
- "In Rio and São Paulo life is a continuous celebration that spills out into the tumultuous streets. Its beautiful, vivid people crowd together and make noise and music. They announce the coming of something new; they have stirred the racial pot and here is a new dish, try it, anyone can join, you too can be Brazilian. It is not a nationality, but a new way of thinking and feeling, open, free, spontaneous. Brazil is the future." (p. 43)
- "My foremost impression is that this country is what the United States thinks it is. The immigrants to the USA were supposed to turn their backs on Europe, but they hand on to their past. They foster and indulge the most crass national foibles of their forbears: the sexual jealousy of Italians, wild Irish tempers, etc. They did not melt in the pot. In Brazil they really melted: in fact, melting seems to be what they like doing best: Indian, Carib, European, Japanese - the genes swirl together, dancing to the samba beat, with never more than a pitying glance backwards to those sad, suffering souls who begat them to a life of sun and fun." (p. 72)
- "The rain forest is rampant, spiteful, tangled in angry knots. Barbed thorns, spiked leaves, resins that burn, poisonous fruits, grasses that clutch you, huge ants that sting like snakes, caterpillars whose hair brings welts up on the skin, tarantulas a foot across wearing mink coats." (p. 50)
- [On returning to England:]
"I looked at my fellow countrymen and felt alien. There is no grace nor dignity in these people, no harmony in their dress, no art in their play. Here is a tribe gone sadly wrong, mutated. Worst of all, they seem to have lost the knowledge of what they have lost." (p. 216)
- "Music and film have always been in love, but never happily married." (p. 218)
- "The Indians, with their music, dance and ritual, are constantly striving to escape their material lives into the spirit world. In making a movie we take the material elements of our society and transmute them into a stream of light flowing on to a wall, hoping that it will contain something of our spirit." (p. 229)
Wizard of the Upper Amazon: The Story of Manuel Cordova-Rios.
By F. Bruce Lamb.
Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
First published in 1971, this is the amazing true story of a Peruvian boy who was kidnapped by Amahuaca Indians in 1907 when he was 15 years old. He was out on a rubber harvesting trip with his uncle and some other men, and was capture while temporarily alone at the camp. He stayed with the Amahuaca for three years, learned their language, and learned how to hunt. He learned later that the Indians kidnapped him so that they could learn about whites and acquire guns. The chief took the boy under his tutelage and taught him all the healing powers of all the plants in the forest, and also conducted carefully controlled sessions of the psychedelic ayahuasca vine, here called nixi honi xuma.
This book is absolutely fascinating, one of the greatest books I have ever read, and every bit as riveting as the film The Emerald Forest. It is tempting to think that John Boorman was influenced by this book. But regardless of whether he actually read it, or whether the similarities are the result of many other accounts of kidnappings that occurred in the same way (there may have been hundreds), which Boorman may have learned of indirectly, this is a must-read for any fan of the movie, or anyone interested in the rain forest, its dwellers, and its vast medicinal powers.
Emerald Forest Home