The film adaptation of Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, doesn’t come out for a few more weeks, but star Jennifer Lawrence is already looking ahead to her next film project, and she’s bringing a familiar director along with her. Gary Ross, who directed the first installment in The Hunger Games trilogy, is planning an adaptation of Burial Rites, the debut novel from Hannah Kent that is turning out to be one of the best-reviewed books of the fall. Sources say Lawrence is set to take on the lead role.
After telling a grueling story of kids killing kids in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, surely Ross and his ingenue are tackling more cheerful fare this time around, right? Not so much: Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person to be executed in Iceland in 1829. Set against an appropriately icy, bleak landscape, the even bleaker plot follows Anges, a housemaid, in the last few months of her life, after she has been convicted of the murder of her former employer. Sent to wait out her last days on an isolated family farm rather than in a prison cell, she is tolerated and shunned in equal measure by the owner and his family. A young priest is sent to take her confession, but only we, the readers, get to hear the whole story.
There’s plenty of juicy material for Lawrence to chew on, and if her portrayal of Katniss has shown us anything, it’s that she knows how to convey stoic strength in the face of the worst odds (even if history has already spoiled the fact that the odds aren’t ever so much in Agnes’ favor). She’ll do well with the chilly backdrop, as well, considering she earned her first Academy Award nomination for running around in a wool cap for the totality of Winter’s Bone (also not exactly a laugh riot).
If Ross and Lawrence are successful in bringing Kent’s novel to the screen, it might be time to anoint this actress the queen of grim literary adaptations set in frigid locales. It’s a small niche, true, but you have to admit: she looks good in layers.