Todd Haynes plunges back into childhood in Wonderstruck

Film still of Wonderstruck © RR

After attending Cannes for Velvet Goldmine (1998) and more recently for Carol (2015), American director Todd Haynes distinguishes himself in a completely different genre with Wonderstruck, a film adapted from Brian Selznick's children's novel, in the running for the Palme d’or.

Wonderstruck charts the stories of Ben and Rose, fifty years apart. Ben dreams of the father he never knew while Rose, isolated by her deafness, discovers a passion for an actress. When Ben unearths a clue that could lead him to his father and Rose learns that her idol is to appear on stage, the two children run away from home and embark on a quest that takes them all the way to New York.

The writer behind the story is the children's author, Brian Selznick, whose acclaimed work Hugo Cabret was adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg in 2011. Selznick was keen to renew the film experience. His project crossed paths with filmmaker Todd Haynes, and this meeting of genres, and of writing and directing, breathes life into the two parallel histories in Wonderstruck, whose screenplay was written by the author himself.

Acclaimed for his feature film homages to unusual characters (Rimbaud, Karen Carpenter, Jean Genet, Bob Dylan…), Todd Haynes garnered the Best Artistic Contribution prize at the 1988 Festival de Cannes in 1998 for Velvet Goldmine, a tribute to the glam rock movement of the 1970s. Having earned a reputation for his provocative films, exploring situations linked to sexuality and social responsibility, such as Far From Heaven (2002) and Carol (2015), in this film Todd Haynes explores identity – another pet theme of his – in choosing to adapt this children's story.

Wonderstruck also provided Haynes with an opportunity to reconnect with his muse, Julianne Moore, who he had directed in Safe (1995), Far From Heaven (2002) and I’m not There (2007).