Room’s Literary Guide to VIFF 2016

Posted by 
Cara Lang

With the 35th Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) only ten days away, Room Magazine is handpicking the best literary-inspired films to add to your must-see VIFF list this season. All of these films take serious inspiration from either the written word or the lives of the writers themselves. What's better than a movie that inspires you to read? Check these out for an interdisciplinary approach to literature and the arts.

The Handmaiden

In Park Chanwook's sumptuous and sexy take on Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith, the setting is transported from Victorian England to 1930's Korea and Japan.The narrative, however, remains faithful to Water's original award-winning crime novel, involving a young pickpocket who is distracted from the ultimate heist when she becomes sexually and romantically entangled with the heiress she is meant to be swindling. There has been some debate over Chanwook's direction and depiction of this lesbian love affair. Decide for yourself whether the sex is gratuitous or liberating? Either way, this film delivers in terms of beauty, drama, and style.  



CanLit takes centerstage in Pedro Almodovar's adaptation of three short stories from Canadian darling and Nobel Prize Winner  Alice Munro. Inspired by her 2004 collection Runaway, Julieta weaves the interconnected stories of mothers and daughters using flashbacks and tell-tale Almodovar restraint. However, don't expect a tidy ending. As with Munro's short stories, this film leaves the viewer with more questions than answers (which we're sure you'll appreciate as readers). 

A Quiet Passion

Starring Cynthia Nixon in a subdued but superb performance, A Quiet Passion depicts the life of American poet and famous recluse Emily Dickinson. We love that the often solitary life of a poet is explored and showcased in this beautiful period piece. It's the lighting and the moments of carefully curated silence that will have you reaching for your own pen to jot down some inspired words. Are we the only ones who bring a notebook to the cinema?


While this isn't strictly "literary-inspired", it is a healthy dose of Canadiana. Maudie is another biopic, this time depicting the life of legendary Canadian folk artist Maude Lewis. The Canadian love affair continues, as this film was written by Sherry White who hails from Stephenville, Newfoundland and was filmed in St. John's, Newfoundland. Between the rugged natural landscape of the maritimes and the creative spirit brought alive through Sally Hawkins portrayal of the self-taught and exuberant artist, Maudie is sure to inspire and delight. 

Cara Lang is Room's Associate Online Editor. If you know of any inspiring feminist, literary, or artistic happenings drop her a line at

 Follow her on Twitter @carabwrites

“It's Canadian, feminist, and one of my favourite things ever.”

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