Neuromancer: filming the un-filmable

Mapping the future: Neuromancer.

There’s a move afoot to film William Gibson’s ground-breaking cyber-punk novel, Neuromancer. Director Vincenzo Natali is eager to realise the supposedly un-filmable novel, the papers have reported.

An earlier attempt to make Gibson’s techno-filled prose into a film resulted in Johnny Mnemonic, which has a brilliant idea at its heart – people who smuggle data in chips inside their head, jacking in to servers to download information into a storage device ‘wet-wired’ into the brain. But the film didn’t manage visually to live up to the potential of Gibson’s vibrant literary imaginings, and one wonders whether the techno-ridden crackle of Neuromancer can similarly be translated onto the screen, with better results.

Published in 1984 (Orwell would have approved), Neuromancer’s influence on science-fiction literature and film has been immense, most noticeably in The Matrix and its sequels (although, to my mind, The Matrix is more derivative of Philip Jose Farmer’s fantastic Riverworld sequence, but that’s for another article).

If it’s to be realised in a manner which captures the energy of the prose, the boundary-pushing imaginings and the idea of a world morphed by technology to such an extent as Gibson uses time and again in his writing, it will need to do so in a way that doesn’t make it seem itself a descendant of The Matrix and its children – Equilibrium springs to mind.

Should Neuromancer come off the page, or should it be left up to the reader to realise Gibson’s amazing vision ?

Posted by Daniel Harding, Deputy Director of Music at the University of Kent. Click here to read his Music Matters blog.