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Stacie Passon

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Posted on June 26, 2019

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Novel to Film

Dawn Keetley

In many ways, Stacie Passon’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018) is a remarkably faithful adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1962 novel. Indeed, it is perhaps the most faithful Jackson adaptation to date –certainly more faithful than the three principal versions of The Haunting of Hill House, for instance (Robert Wise’s 1963 film, Jan de Bont’s 1999 film, and Mike Flanagan’s 2018 serial Netflix adaptation). In an interview, Taissa Farmiga (who plays Merricat Blackwood) explains “Part of the desire of everybody attached—the director, the producers and actors—was to stick as close as possible to the novel. And when we couldn’t, because things don’t always translate to the screen, we wanted to at least stay close to the essence of what the book is about.

The seemingly small ways in which Passon’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle diverges from Jackson’s novel, however, make a significant difference. Indeed, they shift the terrain of the narrative entirely from the enigmatic and even weird  to the profoundly familiar. Passon’s film is still a very good film in its own right, but it simply doesn’t challenge and baffle its viewers the way that Jackson’s novel does.

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