From left: Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund in one of the few “On the Road” scenes in which no one’s naked.
From left: Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund in one of the few “On the Road” scenes in which no one’s naked.

Brazilian-born director Walter Salles made his name in the U.S. with 2004’s “The Motorcycle Diaries,” based on Che Guevara’s two-wheeled road trip through South America. Salles has hit the road again with “On the Road,” his adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel that defined the Beat Generation.

The film, opening at Landmark E Street Cinema on Friday, follows three friends as they careen across the country, often naked or high or both.

The book had long been considered unfilmable; Salles, though, embraced Kerouac’s chaotic, nonlinear style and carried it into the movie. It’s difficult to tell how much time passes — one minute it’s sweltering, the next it’s winter. Characters drift in without much introduction and depart without any farewell. “The way the film is constructed tries to do justice to the jazz and bebop that influenced Kerouac,” Salles says.

The music of the time and the culture that surrounded it are front and center in one of the film’s most frenetic scenes, a house party where married couple Marylou and Dean (Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund) exuberantly dance to the delight of a screaming crowd.

“The camera is very close to the bodies,” Salles says. “You’re not watching them at a distance. It’s as if you are part of that scene.”