Director Joe Wright is no stranger to World War II stories having previously directed Atonement and Darkest Hour, but now it looks like he’s going to explore the time slightly before the war with an adaptation of Erik Larson’s 2011 non-fiction novel In the Garden of Beasts. Per Variety:
The book is based on the true story of William Dodd, a mild-mannered Chicago professor who becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany before the Nazis began to assert an iron grip across Europe. At first, his family embraces the vibrant scene in Berlin, but the ambassador soon learns of reports of violence against Jews. Even though his dispatches to the State Department are met with indifference, he continues to be concerned with the growing press censorship and the passage of shocking laws. It leads to the gradual realization of the horrific genocide that Hitler actually has planned.
Tom Hanks, who will produce the film with Gary Goetzman through their Playtone banner, is loosely attached to play Dodd. Hanks has been on board with this one for a while, going all the way back to 2012 when he was going to star with The Artist director Michael Hazanavicius on board to direct.
While I’ve enjoyed some of Larson’s other books, specifically The Devil in the White City (which is being adapted into a TV series) and Thunderstruck, Beasts didn’t have quite the same punch for me. Perhaps it’s because while those books are about the juxtaposition of human advancement against the great evil of the individual, Beasts is about the great evil of society juxtaposed against the indifference and ineptitude of the individual. That being said, a strong adaptation could focus on the gradual rise of an authoritarian society, which would make it incredibly relevant to today’s world where authoritarianism is on the rise around the world.
Wright is currently in post-production on the adaptation of the best-seller The Woman in the Window starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and Gary Oldman. The Woman in the Window opens October 4th.