Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Better Than The Book?

I'm not very well at the moment and starting this blog has coincided with a rare period where I'm not managing to read very much. In his most recent entry on his own blog, Charles spoke about his despair at the various television and film adaptation of classic books.

So my first, rather pathetic contribution to this blog is a list of books which were actually better when messed about with and put on screen.

Interview With The Vampire – Anne Rice
Anne Rice actually wrote the screenplay, but of course the film had none of her (IMHO) rather tedious gothic pastiche prose to pad it out. It is perhaps much easier to watch melodrama than to read it. A picture paints a thousand words and Rice is an author capable of writing a thousand words about the look in someone’s eye.

Trainspotting – Irving Welsh.
God-awful book. I have very strong feelings about this as Marmite and I have discussed. Fantastic film though. The screenwriter who took that book and extracted those words, shifted them about significantly and turned them into that film was an absolute genius.

Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas
I desperately wanted to read and enjoy these books as a child as they are fantastic stories. Unfortunately Dumas just doesn't do it for me at all. And he doesn’t much like women. The two films I would recommend are the 1994 version of The Three Musketeers (Keifer Sutherland, Oliver Platt and Charlie Sheen) and the 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo (Jim Caviezel, Guy Pierce and Richard Harris).

However, there’s a book called The Stars’ Tennis Balls by Stephen Fry which I read almost by accident which is an excellent modernisation of the Monte Cristo story. Don’t be put off by the fact it is by Stephen Fry, if indeed this fact would be likely to put you off. It is really rather gruesome in places.

And lastly, dare I say it….

Lord of the Rings – J R Tolkein
But only because I managed to watch all the films and I am still stuck of page eight hundred and something of the book. The films were clearly made by someone who loved the books and the story was edited, chopped about and rearranged in such a way to maintain the essence and skip all that nonsense about what they were having for dinner today and all the songs!

While I’m here, please can Marmite and Charles go onto the posting screen, click “Edit Posts” – you should see a list of posts there. Go into your reviews and add a title (I suggest the book and the author is probably the best orthodoxy on this blog). I could have done this myself, but I think Blogger would reveal the fact I had edited your posts and they would appear collaborative.


Blogger melbamae said...

Hi Goldfish and all,

Just wanted to say many thanks for the invite! Off to take one of the animals to the vet at the moment, but hope to have a word or two to contribute to the discussion soon.

Much love,


3:17 PM  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

Dear Goldfish

Sorry to hear you are not well enough to read seriously. Don't worry about that, take your time.

I do agree with you about the Dumas. His style is nineteenth-century French and rather heavy, tho' I suppose it depends what translation you get (assuming we're not talking bilinguals here). I didn't think the film was any where near faithful to the atmosphere of the book as experienced by 20th and 21st-century readers, but it sure was fun and I don't think Dumas would have objected as he was quite a lad in his day.

5:53 PM  
Blogger marmiteboy said...

I think that it is almost impossible to adequetly interpret a book for the screen.

I think this is because our imagination will interpret a book for us and when we see someone elses spin on it we can't help but feel disappointed.

There will almost always be a favourite scene or character that is missing or it's adaptation will be contrary to the way we have seen it in our minds eye.

I believe you have to look at the film of the book as two entirely different entities.

For instance, Trainspotting, which Goldfish and I, as she mentioned, have discussed before. I quite like the book, although my view goes against those who hold Irvine Welsh up as some kind of litary genius, I think he is far from that. In fact I find everything else he has written almost unreadable. The book is multi layered and seedy and nasty. The film although better than the book, mainly because of the performances of the main actor, fails to conjure that. It also doesn't portray Renton as the total tosser that Welsh does. He is a thoroughly nasty person and the scenes in the book that show this are missing from the film.

As some of you may have read already, the only film adaptation I think that truely gives justice to the book is John Mortimer's version of Brideshaed Revisited. This is mainly because it is 11 hours long so nothing is left out. Also the screenwriter has used all of Waugh's dialogue so you really get a sense of the book.

It would be very difficult for a Hollywood studio to adapt a book in thios way because they just haven't the time. Even the Lord of the Rings trilogy had the fan boys and girls jumping up and down because their favourite bit was missing. Myself I've thought the Hobbit was dreadful and boring as hell so never progressed to LOTR. I'll take cover now shall I ;-)

7:01 PM  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

How about Gone With the Wind? That was very faithful to the book because Hollywood didn't dare do otherwise, it being such a best-seller. My favourite Hoolywood adaption of all time has to be the 1930s Wuthering Heights which was given a happy ending by the producer, Sam Goldwyn.

7:05 PM  
Blogger w1ld child said...

Shawshank Redemption wasn't too bad, although the books full title was "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" ;-).

9:48 PM  
Blogger pete said...

The late S.Kubrick did a good job with 'The Shining'. For me it was a pretty weird horror story that baffled me in parts. But Kubrick was a perfectionist which aggravated and perplexed his actors.

Sin City seems bang on the nail, does it for me.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Gimpy Mumpy said...

*gasping for air* There are people who have not finished (or begun) LOTRs? I shall go find a hobbit hole to hide my geekness away in. (Have read the series, oh lets' see, going on about six or seven times now.)

I don't believe that I have ever been completely satisfied with a film adaptation of a novel or short story that I have read although 'Blade Runner' had the flavor of Philip K. Dick's short story and Jeffrey Deaver's 'The Bone Collector' translated fairly well to the big screen.
Speaking of Dumas, has anyone seen the Johnny Depp movie portraying the Perez-Reverte book 'The Club Dumas'? Bit strange that one.....

6:20 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home