Although I have not yet read the novel Y Llyfrgell (my Welsh needs to improve a bit more first), I was keen to watch the film adaptation, The Library Suicides (or Y Llyfrgell in Welsh), which has just been released (August 2016) in Welsh with English subtitles. As I’m in Aberystwyth I had the slightly surreal pleasure of watching the film only a few minutes walk away from where 90% of the film is set: the National Library of Wales.
It’s a very tightly focused film, in terms of only having a few main characters (four/five), and being almost entirely filmed inside the National Library. As I am lucky enough to go to meetings and events in the National Library, including walking through the staff areas, it was slightly strange to see sections I know in real life up on the big screen. Especially when they’re covered in blood. I took extra care in the revolving doors when I next went to the library!
According to a colleague who has seen the film and read the book, the two are actually quite different, and, to avoid giving much of the plot or ending away, I’ll just say that apparently the film’s ending is more ambiguous than in book.
The film centres around twins, Ana and Nan, who work in the National Library as digital curators/archivists. There are some great one-liners about digital preservation, cultural significance and the role of digital collections – yes, seriously! Librarians will also recognise the amateur’s classic error in the rolling stacks…
For me the film addresses questions of the trustworthy nature (or otherwise) of narrators, the truth behind works of fiction or non-fiction, the diary as an accurate record of history, and the role of institutions like the National Library, in providing access to history and culture. A crucial element is also the impact of dementia on people and their lives. And the concept of revenge.
As a friend and colleague (no longer living in Aberystwyth) said it made her wistful for the sea and Aberystwyth – I found it made me rekindle my soft-spot for Aberystwyth too.
It’s well filmed, well acted, and well written (Fflur Dafydd, the book’s author wrote the film adaptation too). If you get a chance, go and see it. It opened in the Edinburgh Film Festival, where Catrin Stewart won Best Performance in British Feature. There are still a few screenings planned for their initial tour – see the Facebook page or Twitter account, including a showing in the National Library itself!