Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Christiane M. Andrews's "Spindlefish and Stars"

Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, on the edges of mountains and woods and fields and sometimes even the sea. A writing and literature instructor, she lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Spindlefish and Stars, her first novel:
Inspired by Greek mythology, Spindlefish and Stars tells the story of a girl named Clothilde who goes in search of her missing father. Taking the ticket of “half-paffage” he left for her, she journeys across the sea and finds herself trapped on small gray island inhabited only by ancient, creaking fisherman, a piggish cat, a moon-cheeked boy named Cary, and an apple-faced old woman who locks Clo away. Though Clo is desperate to escape the island and the old woman—who sits weaving an enormous gray tapestry day after day—she soon begins to realize that the island may be the only place she can truly help her father, as well as all those she left behind.

Many of the characters of Spindlefish and Stars are meant to appear as not exactly human. The islanders, especially, have attributes that suggest they’ve been crafted out of objects: the old woman’s face is “shriveled and shapeless as a dried apple”; others look like “misshapen lumps of clay” or have skin of parchment. Even Clo’s father, who is very much of the “real world,” should not seem realistic, as he has aged in an impossibly rapid way.

The island also has many fantastical elements, in particular the fishing grotto Clo chances upon, as well as the tapestry that she will eventually discover is not, in fact, gray at all. For this reason, I think Spindlefish and Stars would work best as an animated film, perhaps something like one of the stop-motion films by Henry Selick (or, just generally, the Laika studio), or as a film that fully interweaves the real and magical. Guillermo del Toro is remarkably adept at this, and I can see the world and characters of Spindlefish and Stars being developed much like the world and characters of Pan’s Labyrinth. J. A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls, though, is another possible model; the watercolor animation used in that film would work well as Clo discovers her father’s past in his notebook, and a similar technique could be employed as she examines the threads in the old woman’s tapestry.

As for actors: this is far more challenging, especially considering how ancient or unrealistic many of the characters are meant to seem! I don’t generally think of actors when I write, so I have no specific individuals in mind, even for the two central child characters, Clo and Cary. However, someone like a young Alex Lawther could play a brilliant gentle Cary (as could perhaps one of the boys from Jojo Rabbit, Roman Griffin Davis or, especially, Archie Yates). Someone like Keisha Castle-Hughes as she appeared in Whale Rider would make an excellent determined Clo; a young Julia Garner, too, could capture Clo’s bravery and (slightly prickly) self-confidence similarly well.
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

--Marshal Zeringue