Central to Diary of a Film is the question: how do you reconcile life and art, and not settle for a life deferred while art is being made? Maestro’s film is widely expected to win the major prize at the festival, but he is as unsettled and subdued as the director/protagonist of Federico Fellini’s 8 ½. Wandering the streets before the screening, a chance encounter with a stranger, Cosima, appears to sweep away any threat of melancholia and gives him a sense of direction for his next project.... Maxwell once described the writerly ideal as one in which “the line of truth [is] exactly superimposed on the line of feeling”. Both Maestro and Govinden strive to realise that ambition. In Diary of a Film it is within touching distance.
Govinden, the Sussex-born writer of five previous novels, lands on a perfect tone here for ruminating on the perils and consolations of creating art. His book is about putting work into the world and waiting for the splash, or set of ripples, it might cause, but it’s also about the responsibility any retelling owes to its source, and the often-unheeded problems with plundering a story that isn’t yours.
The transience of all things is everywhere in Diary of a Film. “I never want the present to be over,” says the narrator and later describes the “dreaded free fall as each film wrapped”. Of Tom, he observes: “In time, he would learn to hold back feelings from showing on his face, but this was now, and the beauty of it was overwhelming.” This is a wise and skilfully controlled novel that can be read in an afternoon, but which radiates in the mind for much longer.