Books to film

I saw Children of Men last night and really enjoyed it. I'd wanted to see it not just because of Clive Owen (which is, of course, an enjoyable extra), but because I'd read the book and think of it as part of an English proximate-future dystopian trilogy. Doesn't everyone?

Anyway, after the film, Thing Two asked me about the adaptation. To be honest, I'd read the book when it first came out (1994) and while it's stuck with me, the intricate details have not. So I can't opine about the conflation of characters and skewing of events: it all seemed to be there. He then asked "what makes a good adaptation?" Like, are the Harry Potter ones good because they're so faithful to the book? What about Lord of the Rings (should it have been adapted at all)?

My response to him was a vague, porn-like "I know a good one when I see it" but there's more, really. I think good adaptations fall into two categories: those that bring the book to life (not necessarily word-for-word, action-for-action) and those that bring the spirit of the book to life (like Wizard of Oz). In other words, an adaptation can be very faithful, but there's something missing... or it can go off on a tangent and really do something fun that's true to the book. There are even cases when the film was better than the book (some people would say that about Jaws). Unfortunately, you have to read/watch to know...


Sherri said...

Oh yes, it's true. I am of the (I suspect unpopular) opinion that the movie "Chocolat" was more interesting than the book. The book was too scattered for me, too spread out and thin for such a small book. The movie was tighter and neater, which suited me better. I felt the same about "Practical Magic", although I liked the book, too. They almost didn't feel related, actually.

The truth is that books and movies are very different methods of storytelling, very different art forms if you like. What works in one does not work in the other. The same story told in either method is not the same story in the end -- or if it is translated into an opera/musical or a painting.

I still enjoy watching them try.

camillofan said...

Surely every now and then the categories overlap-- that is, you run across a movie that's faithful to both the letter and the spirit of the book. To Kill a Mockingbird would be an example, for me at least.