Thursday, March 28, 2013

D. A. Mishani's "The Missing File"

D. A. Mishani is an Israeli crime writer, editor and literary scholar, specializing in the history of detective fiction.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of The Missing File, his first novel and the first in a series featuring the police inspector Avraham Avraham:
The setting of The Missing File is my Israeli home town, Holon, but it was written far away from there. I wrote my first detective novel, in which a teenage boy goes missing, in a small peaceful village in England during a long and very cold winter. And I think it was that cold weather, unfamiliar to an Israeli used to short warm winters, which made me look in Iceland, of all places, for the right music to listen to while writing.

That's how I discovered two musicians – young Cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir and composer and pianist Ólafur Arnalds. Their albums were the soundtrack of writing The Missing File and the first fantasy of how "The Missing File: the movie" would look like, or to be exact, would sound.

Their music is haunting. Guðnadóttir's cello is emerging from depth, as if from dark forests, and leaves you with an unsettling sense of fear, exactly like good crime novels do. Arnalds's piano is just as haunting, full of sadness and hope, as if reminiscent of a better world that once existed.

This was the first thing I knew (or imagined) about the adaptation of The Missing File. It should open with Arnald's "Lost Song", which would accompany my detective, Inspector Avraham Avraham's search for the missing boy, and would end with Guðnadóttir's "Unveiled", which erupts like a cry with the movie's last scenes, as the solution of the investigation is revealed.

The fact that my fantasy of the cinematic adaptation of the novel starts with the soundtrack is not coincidental. Although books fill my life in many ways - I not only write but also teach literature – I always thought cinema's advantage over the novel wasn't the moving true-image (a good novel can be just as descriptive) but the use of music.

Since one of my favorite cinematic moments is the final scene of David Fincher's Fight Club - the couple (Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter) hold hands while the whole world collapses to the sound of the Pixies singing "Where is my mind?" - I thought Fincher would be the perfect director for my novel, which also ends with a new couple facing a tragedy (Fincher also directed a great realistic thriller – Zodiac - and lately The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). But what about Martin Scorsese, my favorite American film-maker, who brilliantly adopted Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island? One of the characters in my novel, a strange schoolteacher who tries to tell the police something about the missing boy and gradually becomes a suspect, was influenced by a character in a Scorsese movie: Rupert Pupkin, the protagonist of his The King of Comedy, played by Robert De Niro. Only later on, after the book was finished, I saw Martha Marcy May Marlene by Sean Durkin, and thought he would also be a perfect director for the film. I felt that just as I tried to do, he created a thriller that emerges from the deepest mystery, that of the human soul.

And who could be my protagonist, Inspector Avraham? There's a small scene in Clint Eastwood's Absolute Power that I like very much. It's a wonderful investigation scene: it takes place in an art museum, of all places, and both the investigator (Ed Harris) and the suspect (Eastwood) are enjoying themselves, clearly fond of each other. I can see Ed Harris doing Inspector Avraham – his sensitivity and wisdom are manifest in his eyes and smile, his passion to know the truth. When I come to think about it, maybe it's even the other way around and my Inspector Avraham is doing Ed Harris in the novel?
Learn more about the book and author at D. A. Mishani's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue