Monday, September 12, 2005

The Film of the Book

It's always scary to find that a book you love has been turned into a film. Scary because when you read a book, you make your own head film of it, and the (reel-life!) film of the book can come between you and your personal set of images. The images of the cinema are much more pervasive ... and will be identical for everyone who sees the film.
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Polanski's Tess (1979) upset me. Not because it was a bad film, but I loved Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbavilles with a passion and his heroine looked nothing like mine, and his landscape (he shot in France) did not evoke the lush greenery and golden light and pre-raphaelite hues of my head-film.

I have not been able to watch the film version of Captain Corelli's Mandolin because I have such an emotional attachment to the book and Nicholas Cage just is NOT Corelli.
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I was also not able to watch the film made of another favourite book, Graham Swift's Waterland , principally because, and this I fail to understand at all, the setting was shifted from the East Anglian fens to the US! A simular trans-Atlantic transposition meant that I had no interest at all in watching the film of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. Are film makers afraid that American audiences won't be able to relate to films set in Britain?

In fairness, though, there are sometimes films which chime exactly with your own vision of the book. Of Love and Shadows , the film of Isabel Allende's novel, was such a one, for me.
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And Annie Proulx's The Shipping News was another.

And there is that real rarity - the film of a book you love which manages to be better than the novel. The only example I can think of is The English Patient. How could Ondaatje not have made more of his intensly romantic main plot? (Though Mingella should have brought Hana and Kip into the film rather more.)
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All of this is by way of preamble. The Visitor dropped by yesterday to leave a comment telling me that Ang Lee's film of Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain won the top prize at the Venice film festival.
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I've written before about how I love the book, so my heart's in my mouth - can the film measure up? I've watched the trailer and I like what I see ... very much. So I'm hopeful.

Now please do tell me about your experiences with the film of your favourite books ...


Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

i can't remember the last time a favourite book of mine was adapted into film. i remember vaguely that Misery impressed me a lot.

and i haven't seen The Shipping News, believe it or not.

but i do wish, and am waiting, for someone to make a film of Iain Banks' really truly utterly horrific The Wasp Factory. that book is brilliant.

Jane Sunshine said...

Angela's Ashes was made into a perfect, heart-tugging movie by Alan Parker. Frankie McCourt was perfectly cast, as I watched him grow up over the years. And the wretched rains of Limerick dampened my spirit long after the movie was over. Perfect.

Another good book turned to movie was the fun, fun, fun Bridget Jones Diary. The first one only. Bridget Jones 11 sucked big time(book and movie). Other fav movie from books: Hamlet starring Mel Gibson, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Remains of The Day starring Anthony Hopkins.

One of the worst movies for me was the Winona Ryder version of Little Women which was devoid of any life. She killed Joe March. And Great Expectations starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke (big turkey).

Of course we have the gazallionth version of Pride and Prejudice opening this week. Starring Keira Knightly. Inevitably, I will go, being the Jane Austen sucker that I am. Comments reserved until after the movie.

bibliobibuli said...

Oh Visitor - I am with you about The Wasp Factory. (Maybe when you get famous?) I loved the film of Misery but haven't read the book yet, though intend to.

Jane Sunshine - I should have mentioned the film Bridget Jones as one that is better than the book ... I actually read it when it ws serialised ... was it in the Guardian?

Remains of the Day - both book and film were excellent. Angela's Ashes was pretty perfect too - thanks for reminding me.

Lord of the Rings - another film which although a great achievement spoiled the book for me because I can't go back to my vision anymore.

I'm grateful to anyone who adapts Jane Austen for the screen because I've never been a fan. (Sorry, Jane!)

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

i do have a script based on an Ambrose Bierce short story. am hoping to shoot it mebe next year. i adapted the setting to a bungalow in Ipoh. haha!

bibliobibuli said...

I met Ambrose Bierce in a dream. I hadn't even heard of him till that moment and he told me his name clearly and distinctly so I wouldn't forget him. I had to look him up on the internet to find out who he was.

Chet said...

I agree about Shipping News - the movie captured the book very well, except for one element. Kevin Spacey wasn't quite Quoyle enough.

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

Miss Bibliobibuli,


tell me it's not true! that's spooky!

bibliobibuli said...

It is true Mr. Visitor, though in my dreams he was an artist (this was one of a series of very vivid dreams about creativity). I did not think much of it ... but yesterday googled him again with the word "dream" and found that he had written about the power of dreams which he used in his stories. Here's one of his essays on the subject. It's such a good piece I'm going to use it on my course.

Now I might have heard his name once out of the corner of my ear, or strange things might just happen in dreams ...

bibliobibuli said...

chet - you're so right about spacey not being Quoyle - he needed to be much uglier. But Hollywood never has ugly people as heroes ...

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

did you know that John Travolta was the original choice for Quoyle?

bibliobibuli said...

I think Travolta would have suited the part ... though Spacey is the better actor.