Monday, 10 February 2014


"Never Judge a book by its movie." - J.W.Eagan

OK, easy-peasy question: What do these films all have in common?
Get Shorty; LA Confidential; Trainspotting; Picnic at Hanging Rock; The Remains of the Day
; Schindler's List; Fight Club; Harry Potter and many more…

Yes, they are all films, I told you that! But also, they are all films that have been based on novels that pre-existed them. Film adaptations of books can be better than the book, as good as the book, or absolutely terrible and would better not be associated with the book under any circumstances. There are the die-hard literary buffs that maintain that no film is better than the book, but in my experience, some mediocre books have been made into extremely satisfying films.

This is a topic that has generated a great deal of debate and here are some links that give you an idea of what has been said about this issue:
“Guardian” (UK newspaper) news story:

“The Age” (Australian Newspaper) news story:

Amazon Online (US):

One of my favourite film adaptations is of Joan Lindsay’s novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Peter Weir (1975). This is a lush, period piece redolent with atmosphere and mystery. The movie has been lovingly cast and each of the principal actors is extremely well-suited to the role. The music contributes greatly to the mystery that the film creates and the cinematography is fantastic. The novel was written in such a way that it seems to be based on a true story, but as Joan Lindsay has said, it is a work of pure fiction.

The book/movie concerns three students and a schoolteacher that disappear on an excursion to Hanging Rock, in Victoria, on Valentine's Day, 1900. Hanging Rock is a marvellous locale and should not be missed if you are visiting Melbourne, Australia – it is only 80 km to the North of the City. Failing that, you can always get a copy of the book and have a read of it, and then see the movie too!

The scenario or screenplay is the raw material that the director has at his/her disposal to create the film and together with the cinematographer fleshes out this piece of writing to get the work of art that the film becomes. A good screenplay is difficult to write, especially if one has the unenviable task of adapting a well-known and well-loved piece of classic literature. But it can be done!

What do you think of film adaptations of works of literature? What is a favourite one of yours? What film adaptation of a novel hasn’t worked at all?

1 comment:

  1. I am always leery of film adaptations of novels that I have loved ... some of the best ... Sophie's Choice. I loved the novel so much and didn't think that it could be done as powerfully, but I was wrong. Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline were magnificent as the star-crossed lovers. Another that I loved was Cold Mountain, although I still feel the novel's beautiful descriptive passages were lost in the film's cinematography. The worst? HMMMM. I suppose that The Hobbit has ranked right up there ... this latest making of the movie was doomed as the story is just so rich and the time constraints for films makes it next to impossible to make a satisfying adaptation. I also didn't care for the film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, mainly because the actors didn't match my image of the characters in Kesey's novel. I could go on, but ... let's just say that it takes a courageous production team to adapt a well-loved novel.