Books vs films, the argument as old as time…or, to be even more accurate for the pedants out there, an argument as old as 1924 when the first film adaptation of a novel took place.
I know you can all think of a few horror stories of beloved books butchered by Hollywood, but not every film adaptation has a nightmare ending.
Film can be a beautiful visual accompaniment to a novel, telling the story through a new medium and to a new audience. Let’s be honest, not everyone reads novels (I know…I don’t like these people either) but some people prefer visual or auditory media, so we shouldn’t deprive them of our favourite characters and stories. Films can also be a way for us to get another fix of our favourites, and see an actual real live actor playing our favourite character.
Sometimes, the film-makers get it right.
The Painted Veil
This W. Somerset Maugham novel is one of my favourites and the film, produced by and starring Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, is also one of my favourite films. Beautiful shot, faithful to the story and characters, it delivers the same atmosphere of the setting that the book portrays and perfectly captures the inner feelings of the characters.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy is at the top of my favourite novels list. Yes, this highly depressing and grim story is one I love. What can I say, I’m odd! Jude (starring both my favourite actors Chris Ecclestone and Kate Winslet) retains as much of the story as it can, whilst still needing to tweek a few things to make such a large novel fit into a short film. Despite the small changes it still faithfully adheres to the mood of the novel and portrays the wider social issues with sensitivity.
But sometimes, the film-makers get it wrong. So very very wrong.
The Kite Runner
This film suffered the fate of many, that my expectations for it were too high and they would have had to work hard to meet these expectations. I was disappointed that the over-all narrative of the novel (about the relationship between boys and men, between friends and between father and son) was largely shoved to the side to focus instead on the relationship the main character had with his wife [and some other spoilery plots]. It wasn’t a terrible film, just one I was profoundly disappointed with.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Let me start by saying, I love the book by Lisa See. It’s a stunning and important book that everyone should read. The story about the life of young women in 19th Century China is one rarely told so eloquently and with such vivid detail. Hollywood obviously disagreed, and decided the film version needed to also have an entirely separate parallel story of two young girls living in modern day Shanghai. Just don’t. Just…no.
These are my highs and lows of novels turned into films, what are yours? Which books do you wish had never been turned into films? Which stories do you crave to see a big screen adaptation of?