When the movie is better than the book

Many times, the movie is not as good as the book. Some times, the movie is entirely different than the book and can stand on its own - The Wizard of Oz is a great example. Some times, the movie is the equal of the book (the Colin Firth P&P, for example).

And then there are those very rare times when the movie is far, far better than the book. I've recently experienced this with our afterschool book club. We read Joan Lindsay's A Picnic at Hanging Rock as a group. The kids liked it, even though they sometimes had difficulty understanding and following the slow pace of the book. The mystery of what happened to the girls intrigued them. Then we watched the movie.

The setting, the music, the pacing: it was perfect. The kids were loathe to stop the film at the end of the period, and just as loathe to start again the next time because it was so eerie, so creepy.

When it was all over, they were unanimous. The movie was far, far better than the book. How often can you say that?


Sherri said...

Ya know, I had that experience with two books turned into movies -- Chocolat and Practical Magic.

I really didn't like the book Chocolat -- I found it a little too plotless, sort of wandery, with too many threads and ideas in it and lots of distance between the reader and the characters. I almost stopped reading halfway through. The priest character irritated me by being too empty. The author seemed almost smug about him. The central character wasn't really central -- she was just viewing what went on. She hardly seemed present sometimes, and wasn't even involved in the "climax" of the book, at least not so much that I remember it.

The movie took a lot of liberties, but condensed all the fluff and bother down to a single strong plot thread that told an actual story. I also liked the implied magic of the movie, which wasn't in the book. I enjoyed the movie much more.

With Practical Magic, the movie also condensed the book down, and while I liked the book very much, I felt like Hoffman was shying away from the magic she kept saying existed and made such a difference in these women's lives. Perhaps it is because of my own background or my love for fantasy, but the movie made the magic central, while the book seemed as embarrassed by it as the main character.

Well, that and I loved Stockard Channing and Diane Weist as the two aunts.

Usually the movie doesn't honor the book enough for me, but in those two cases, I thought the movie was an improvement.

Karmon said...

Sherri, I liked the book too much to watch Practical Magic.

I think anything directed by Robert Redford is a better movie than a book. He chooses some boring books and manages to make them into visually stunning films.

camillofan said...

The movie To Kill a Mockingbird is the equal of one of the finest novels of the 20th C. And the film version of Oscar and Lucinda was as good as the book, IMO.