Many works by the British novelist who died at the age of 89 have been adapted for film or television. Most often successfully.
Espionage, betrayals, paranoia: a dozen of John Le Carré’s novels have appeared on the screen, sweeping aside the great upheavals of contemporary history, from the Cold War to the Arab Spring, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The spy who came from the cold (1965)
Success in bookstores, The spy who came from the cold, the third novel by Le Carré, becomes a film only two years after its release. Shot in black and white, with a staging in line, the film follows the adventures of a British secret agent (played by Richard Burton), accepting a mission intended to unmask a former Nazi converted into communist espionage.
It marks the beginnings of the privileged relationship between Le Carré and cinema. Other, no doubt less successful, adaptations followed, including The Little Girl with the Drum by George Roy Hill (1984) and Russia House (1990) with Sean Connery, before more complex films from the 2000s.
The gardener’s constancy (2005)
The sublimated landscapes of Kenya, an overwhelming love story between a British diplomat married to a lawyer militant against the pharmaceutical industry, the glamorous couple formed by Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz … With The constant gardener (The constancy of the gardener in VF), directed by the Brazilian Fernando Meirelles (The city of God), Le Carré’s work meets the general public.
Rachel Weisz wins the following year the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role for the character of Tessa, who pays with her life for her stubbornness but reveals to himself her husband, a character until then a little dull and. .. passionate about gardening.
The mole (2011)
Far from the bubbling worlds of a James Bond, the world of the Le Carré version of the secret services is a grayish and starched world, as illustrated by the adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (The mole in original version) in 2011, one of his most successful. Directed by the Swede Tomas Alfredson, the film offers Gary Oldman the role of Smiley, the tired spy in charge of tracking down a traitor within the British services (the “circus”).
Betrayals, secrets, silences and cigarette smoke hover over this film with a (very) complex plot and a 99% male cast. The mole brings together the best of British actors from John Hurt to Tom Hardy to Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth. It will receive the Batfa for best British film in 2012 and will bring up to date The sea (by Charles Trenet), sung by Julio Iglesias.
The Night Director (2016)
Why leave it to others to adapt Le Carré’s works? Two of his sons, Simon and Stephen Cornwell, decide to take up the challenge, through their production company Ink Factory. Their first try is A very wanted man (2014), film adaptation of a 2008 novel with Philip Seymour Hoffman. They then produce The Night Manager, this time for television.
Developed by AMC, the American pay-TV channel, and the BBC, this glamorous mini-series reunites Hugh Laurie as villain, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Debicki (Tenet) and Tom Hiddleston as the Night Watchman, who becomes a Secret Service agent to arrest an arms dealer. The series is breaking audience records in Great Britain, with an average of 6 million viewers per episode.
The Little Girl with the Drum (2018)
The meeting of the Antipodes: in 2018, it was the virtuoso Park Chan-Wook who adapted a novel by Le Carré. Known for electrifying the Cannes Film Festival with Old boy and Miss, the South Korean director adapted for the small screen The little girl with the drum, praised by critics.
The miniseries, her first foray into the small screen, features Florence Pugh, seen since in The daughters of Doctor March. She plays an actress recruited by the character played by Alexander Skarsgard to become a double agent. She joined an Israeli counterterrorism cell and infiltrated a Palestinian organization carrying out attacks in Europe.