Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Based on the Book

Since I hope to write about book-to-movie crossovers several more times in the coming months, I want to mention that I know it seems naive to expect anything but the cliched conclusion of: It wasn't as good as the book. I'm aware of this weakness of mine; the perpetual hope that the movie will recreate the feeling of the book it was based on. But it's not entirely baseless either, as there have been quite a few quality film adaptations that were faithful to the spirit of the book. 

Two fantastic ones off the top of my head were THE SHINING and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I also thought they did a great job on THE HUNGER GAMES, and am looking forward to seeing the rest of the trilogy on the screen. And since I can't vouch for the translation of movies like JAWS, THE EXORCIST, or LORD OF THE RINGS due to the fact that I haven't read the books, I'll let this Chicago Tribune article and this Rolling Stone article do it for me. 

Of course, not every film can be a SHINING or LORD OF THE RINGS, but this proves my faith is not so misplaced after all. So what's the secret formula that turns a good book into a great movie? I have some inklings, but I hope to figure some of that out as I'm reading, watching and writing. In the meantime, I think the authors in the Chicago Tribune article mentioned above make some great points:
"I think we can all agree they weren't great literature, but they supplied the medium of movies with what movies do best – which is a very strong narrative, an interesting hook and a strong story." - Bret Easton Ellis (in reference to adaptations like JAWS, THE GODFATHER, THE EXORCIST)
Another thought that I agree with:
"I've often wondered why directors occasionally make it so hard on themselves, trying to adapt stories that are internal, digressive or ambiguous." - Jeffrey Deaver
That is, in fact, the biggest obstacle that WARM BODIES had. The most beautiful parts of that book were internal: R's thoughts, the dead boyfriend's memories and emotions, Julie's philosophies. They used some narration to get a few things across, but you can't do that through an entire film. At some point you've got to let the action and dialogue take over, and that's what you're relying on to express complex emotions and thoughts. Not an easy thing to do when you're trying to remain faithful to a novel that so heavily relies on the unexpressed thoughts and feelings of its characters. 

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