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Posted August 02, 2011 to photo album "Déjà vu"
In adapting the Israeli thriller <em>Ha-Hov</em> into <em>The Debt</em>, John Madden enters the cinematic tradition of remaking foreign language films for English-speaking audiences. We look at some of the best foreign language adaptations, from transforming Kurosawa into a American western to popularizing Japanese horror.
Brødre (2004) to Brothers (2008)
Danish writer-director Susanne Bier – possibly most famous for winning Best Foreign Language Film at the 2010 Academy Awards for her film In a Better World – first established herself as a highly successful filmmaker on the international stage by creating emotionally incisive, incredibly human romantic dramas such as Open Hearts (2002), Brødre (2004) and After the Wedding (2006). While her directing peers in Denmark were becoming Dogma disciples, she instead focused her talents on creating stories that had resonated with audiences worldwide on a personal level. As a result, Hollywood sat up and took notice of her, first tapping her to direct the highly acclaimed Things We Lost in the Fire (2007), starring Benicio Del Toro and Halle Berry, and then picking up the remake rights to Brødre, Bier's tale of a woman whose husband is reported as dead while fighting in Afghanistan, and who then falls for his rebellious brother. Jim Sheridan, the Irish director of such films as My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father and In America, was hired to make Brothers, an adaptation of Bier's film starring Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman which moved the action to America but otherwise stayed incredibly close to the original material. “I thought it was a great movie, but it didn't [get a major] release in America, so I thought it could have a bigger audience,” Sheridan told Dark Horizons. “I tried to be as honest and true... then tried to make it my own, but I was always concerned with not damaging the original.” Arguably the biggest change in Sheridan's version was that there was a greater focus on family dynamics – a continuing preoccupation in Sheridan's work – rather than on the romantic aspects of the plot, which are forefronted in Bier's movie. In her review of Brothers for Salon, Stephanie Zacharek wrote that “although Sheridan and screenwriter David Benioff have, out of necessity, recast the story somewhat, they've preserved the subtlety of the original to a remarkable degree. ...Sheridan shapes the drama so casually that he succeeds in making it feel naturalistically unshaped. (In fact, he and Benioff follow the structure of Bier's version, and even the tenor of much of the dialogue, fairly closely.) Sheridan is good at capturing the mundane details of family life, particularly when it comes to little-girl siblings: He gets the petty squabbling, the pouty rivalries and the fierce camaraderie just right.”