Lost in Translation isn’t limited to film and TV series based on common media. The idea was discussed about five years ago. One of the sources mentioned, Simon Stålenhag, had his Tales from the Loop artbook adapted by Amazon in 2020.

Stålenhag’s artwork invokes the Eighties in Sweden, on the island of Mälaröarna. In Stålenhag’s world, the island is the home to the Loop, a large particle accelerator built beneath Mälaröarna and centered on the Gravitron. The paintings depict day to day life above the Loop, with oddities part of the backdrop. Robots, strange metal appendages on buildings, even what appear to be dinosaurs are just part of the landscape for the people on the island. Life continues, incorporating the weird until it becomes mundane.

Amazon picked up the option for a TV series in 2018. Two years later, Tales from the Loop began streaming on Amazon Prime. The series is a slice of life drama about life above the Loop. The core cast consists of Rebecca Hall as Loretta, Paul Schneider as her husband George, Daniel Zolghadri as her eldest sone Jakob, Duncan Joiner as her younger son Cole, and Jonathan Pryce as Russ, the founder of the Loop and George’s father. However, the series doesn’t focus on them, but they appear in the majority of episodes. The episodes are more or less self-contained, but are integrated with the rest of the series.

The episodes each focus on one element of the weirdness around the Loop. The first episode, a young Loretta (Abby Ryder Fortson) returns home from school to find her mother missing and a strange black object. She winds up traveling forward in time to meet her older self, who takes her to the Gravitron to return the object. The episodes aren’t flashy. There are no explanations, no spectacular special effects. Life is just life.

Being based on artwork, the series sets up scenes by recreating the paintings, building from the art to tell a story around it. The pacing is deliberate, giving time for the viewer to work out the implications and ramifications of scenes. Life isn’t always exciting, but it is life, and the series shows what happens after the Twilight Zone-style twists that occur.

Some changes were made in the adaptation. Beyond the obvious of using actors and film instead of a series of paintings, the setting itself was moved from Mälaröarna to Mercer, Ohio, a county that is mostly farmland in real life, with Winnipeg, Manitoba used for location filming. However, thanks to one painting, a more European van was kept instead of a more appropriate boxy sedan like a Ford Crown Victoria or a Chevrolet Caprice. The van is an oddity, but given the Loop, it fits.

The pacing may be an issue for some viewers. The series’ focus is drama, not action. People living their lives in a one-industry small town. Some scenes could have been tighter, but the series has a mood and tone to it. It’s not about just what is happening on screen. It’s an exploration of living around the unusual that has become the status quo. To quote Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” In the case of Tales from the Loop, people keep living their lives, going to school or work, falling in and out of love, despite being above a weirdness magnet. The characters grew up with the unusual being the usual, so, to them, the strange events aren’t anything special.

Amazon’s Tales from the Loop gives life to Simon Stålenhag’s art, transforming them from still moments to a living, breathing world, using the paintings as a launchpad to tell stories about how technology both changes lives and becomes just another tool. Changing Stålenhag’s art into an action movie would have been a disservice. Keeping the drama at the personal level keeps the nostalgia of the era and the strange-yet-normal familiar.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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