With the first trailer, I was intrigued by what the film, A Quiet Place, could be. It suggested a film with little dialogue and one very sparing in its sound design. After all, it dealt with strange creatures that hunted purely by sound.
I wasn’t able to catch the film during its theatrical run, but I have since viewed it with its release to Blu-ray. It is a well-crafted film. The filmmakers did not rely on the usual trope of scare tactics. Instead, they opted to explore a family’s loss and the perceived guilt and blame surrounding that loss. Then they set this family conflict against an apocalyptic landscape where silence is the basic tool for survival. Thus, even though the family is familiar with, if not fluent, in American Sign Language (the eldest child, Reagan, is deaf), much remains, obviously, unspoken.
However, what I want to explore here is less a critique of a film and/or novel, but rather the nature of intellectual property.
After becoming aware of A Quiet Place, I stumbled across an unfamiliar author. One of his novels, The Silence, is about a family that seeks refuge in a world overrun by strange creatures that hunt prey solely through sound. Does this seem familiar? The book cover announced, “Soon to be a major motion picture.” I assumed that here was the source material for A Quiet Place.
Tim Lebbon published The Silence in 2015. He is a prolific author with many original titles and film novelizations to his credit. However, when I finished watching A Quiet Place, acknowledgement of his story was to be found nowhere in any of the film’s credits. Instead, John Krasinski (screenwriter and director) and Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (co-writers and story concept) receive credit for A Quiet Place as an original creation.
That “Soon to be a major motion picture” tag on Lebbon’s novel, I since learned, referred to another film in development based directly upon his work.
But in a way, hasn’t A Quiet Place already tapped the same basic premise? I have only read a portion of Lebbon’s novel thus far. There are differences. But what I can gather, both novel and film share the same basic, foundational elements: family seeks refuge and safety from strange creatures that hunt by sound. Moreover, both include a deaf daughter as a central character.
I know Lebbon’s camp is aware of the similarities between the two works. But I have not discovered anything with regard to any issues surrounding misappropriation of intellectual property.
I am not willing to pass judgment one way or another since I have not read in full Lebbon’s novel. However, the similarities are striking, and, for example, in the music world, complaints of stolen intellectual property have been made based on far less in the ways of similarity. I know this is an apples to oranges comparison. However, the question remains: where do we as artists draw the line with regard to the delineation between mere coincidence and outright thievery?
How many monkeys pounding on keyboards is it said would take to recreate one of Shakespeare’s plays? But then again, how much of Shakespeare is actually Shakespeare’s? There had been, at one time, some suspicion surrounding a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, Christopher Marlowe, as being a co-writer on much of the former’s body of work (a very interesting theory and well worth diving down that proverbial rabbit hole to investigate). Also, Romeo and Juliet is merely a re-imagining of the much older stories of star-crossed lovers, Tristan and Isolde.
In the end, I invite you to do your own investigation and be your own judge. I know where I currently stand based on the evidence at hand, and I am all the more saddened as a consequence.