Books help us all understand life as we flip through the pages. Each page invites us into the author’s mind. The Bookshop expresses the hardships of opening one of the first book stores in England. This film is inspired acclaimed novel with the same title by Penelope Fitzgerald. Isabel Coixet expresses her film origins and goes more in depth about the main character.
ATM: Take me through the preparations for this film.
IC: I discovered Penelope Fitzgerald novel many years ago and I was completely taken by it: the tone, dry, never sentimental, the main character, Florence Green (I felt an instant connection with her) the subject, the banality of evil… I fought for 7 years to take the novel to the screen. We live in times where if you want to make a 100 million dollar film about superheroes, it’s kind of easy, but if you want to tell stories of a modest woman wanting to open a little bookshop in a little town, then be prepared to be really patient and stubborn.
ATM: Explain how receiving an 8mm camera as a communion present stirred your passion for film making.
IC: I always, since I can remember, wanted to be a filmmaker and my parents gave me the super 8mm camera because I couldn’t stop pestering them about it. I loved it and I made many very silly films with it with my friends and cousins. This helped me to have a clear idea about what “directed by” meant.
ATM: Why are there not many films made with a similar narrative such as The Bookshop?
IC: Every film I’ve done has a very specific quality. I always let the story find its own unique storytelling. The tone of this one was “breathe.” I consciously let the images, the human gestures, nature “breathe” and let the audience breathe with them.
ATM: What is your favorite, 19th, and 20th-century novel? and Why?
IC: My 19th favorite century novel is Madame Bovary because it’s real, and raw, and tragic and fun. Also, Flaubert makes you understand the personality of this woman, without making her likable or loved. My favorite 20th century novel is the whole 7 volumes of “In search of lost time” of Marcel Proust because it’s the most formidable Wikipedia of human nature I ever read. Once you have reached the 7th volume you can start again, and it could be a totally different book.
ATM: Where in Florence Green do you see the pieces of yourself?
IC: I see a shy, modest, humble, innocent and determined person. I’ve lived situations like Florence in my life. I react just like her: soldiering on
ATM: How would this film be different if Florence was written as a male?
IC: I think things would have been very different for him. At least he never had to experience people “manxplaying” things all the time. I don’t think Violet would have refrain of getting rid of her if Florence would have been a man.
ATM: Recent statistics express there are fewer people reading books in 2018. Since this film is inspired by an acclaimed novel, do you believe film adaptations derived from books are the cause? The film adaptions from books provide readers with a more visual approach than a tangible one.
IC: If people read fewer books because they are glued to their phones, it’s their loss. I know for a fact all audiences who have loved The Bookshop, they run to buy the novel afterward, and this makes me very happy.
ATM: Florence Green said, “You have to succeed if you give everything you have.” How true is this? Where in your life have you given everything?
IC: I gave everything many times in my life. Sometimes It was worth it, and sometimes it wasn’t. This will not stop me to do it again
ATM: If Florence was a character that gave half of everything or nothing at all, then would she still have succeeded? Would it have been possible?
IC: Her success is not her hands. There’s a dark conspiracy against her with forces she can’t even suspect. For me, she succeeds in doing whatever she always wanted to do. The outcome is not the most important thing. Her courage is.
Cultural norms limit the main character to receive support from her town by opening up a bookshop. Florence finds some courage and strength once the bookstore opens. Her journey through this film is not easy. The Bookshop was released in theaters August 24, 2018.