Other Man, The: From Short Story to Feature Film

“The Other Man,” written and directed by Richard Eyre and starring Liam Neeson,  is released September 25, 2009 by Image Entertainment.

German Writer Bernhard Schlink is best known around the world for his novel “The Reader,” which has been translated into 39 languages and was the first German book to reach the number one spot in The New York Times bestseller list.  His short story “The Other Man,” on which the film is based is from a book of short stories entitled Flights of Love which depicts numerous aspects of love.

Whilst keeping the bones and plot of the short story, Richard Eyre and Charles Wood had to move the story on and give it a film narrative. 

Different Timelines

Explains Tracey Scoffield: “The original story is really about one man and is very reflective and Richard had to open it up and bring in the other characters that are in this man’s thoughts in the story and make them into real characters for the film.  He has made really interesting choices as to what elements of the original story he has had to discard and what to keep, some practical and some creative and has added film mechanisms in terms of timelines and storylines.  The short story is very linear and it has a certain amount of retrospection about the past.  Our film is deliberately broken up into different timelines in order to keep the audience in suspense about what actually happened in the past.”

Chnaging the Characters

Eyre explains: “The short story is set in a small town in Germany and the two main characters are older than in the film and they have a son and a daughter.  She is a musician in an orchestra and originally I made her a cello player in a string quartet until the producers said to me that they felt they had seen that before.  It wasn’t accessible and a plug into the contemporary world.  Charles and I talked about it; the character had to travel and have an autonomous life of her own, and be creative.  So we discussed the world of fashion and then I was working with a Line Producer whose daughter was a shoe designer and I spoke to her about shoe designing and thought this is absolutely perfect, because shoe designers tend to be more self effacing and aren’t the people strutting on the catwalk.  They are content to be in the background and they do something that is highly technically sophisticated.  Making shoes, particularly making stilettos, is a very complicated piece of engineering and they are also beautiful objects.”

There are other ways in which Eyre has made the story resonate in a contemporary world: “In the short story, the main character uncovers letters from her lover; in the film, he uncovers e-mails and photographs.” 

Lake Como

One thing that I have kept is the pivotal role that Lake Como plays in the story.  It’s entirely appropriate as it’s probably the most romantic place in the world. In some sense the story as well as being a psychological thriller is a love story with recurrent images of Lake Como.”