In the Dark

Character Is Fate

House of Sand and Fog
Produced and distributed by DreamWorks
Directed by Vadim Perelman
Screenplay by Vadim Perelman and Shawn Lawrence Otto from the novel by Andre Dubus III

As Heraclitus concluded so has Andre Dubus III: Character is fate.  By way of illustration, in 1999, Dubus gave us his hypnotic novel House of Sand and Fog, the story of three very different characters weaving together their individual fates to disastrous effect.  Reading this narrative is like being transfixed by a hissing cobra.  You know the deadly strike is coming, but you dare not avert your eyes, even for an instant.

I am in debt to first-time feature director Vadim Perelman for translating this novel to the screen.  Had he not, I might never have read it.  Its cover bears a seal identifying it as an Oprah’s Book Club selection, a testimonial that usually works on me as a cordon sanitaire.  My one regret is that I read the novel just before seeing the film.  Doing so threw Perelman’s exceptional movie into partial eclipse, for, as good as it is, it cannot compete with the spell cast by the text.  Perelman has not found a fully satisfactory cinematic equivalent to Dubus’ use of alternating points of view.  The book brings us inside its characters’ minds by having two of the principals relate in their own voices...

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