Thursday, February 02, 2006

Books and Films

Never judge a book by its movie. - JW Eagan

In a few weeks the movie Brokeback Mountain will have its commercial run in Metro Manila. Ang Lee's Cowboy-Shepherd Love Story will be a hit in Metro Manila. The range of interest for the movie cuts across personal sexual preferences.

There are two things general about movie adaptations.

First, Always note the word/caveat "adapted from", this means that the Director, Writer and Producer may have tampered with the story, for the sake of expediency and to hype up the story.

Second, The resulting movie story is not as good as the original story. Rarely, the only film that seems to improve with the movie adaptation was Pierre Boulle's "Le pont de la rivière Kwai" and the movie was David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai. And probably, the film "Spartacus", which was adapted from Howard Fast's novel of the same title. Then again Bridge on the River Kwai and Spartacus are good examples of ensemble work at are finest.

However, despite this I like movie adaptations and I do not mind queuing up to watch them. Partly because to see their treatment of book and more importantly the interest it generates ushers in new batch of readers. Not to mention new and better editions of the story.

So for that I like movie adaptations. Movie adaptations that have ushered in a renewed interest in books include:

Please note, the books mentioned in this post are books that I like and I am quite aware there are more books and film adaptations out there worthy of praise and attention.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I like the Fellowship of the Ring, but not its subsequent adaptations. It did, however, bring in new editions of JRR Tolkien works. The Lord of the Ring Trilogy is a good buy, but a better buy would be "The Hobbit", "Farmer Giles of Ham", and "The Tolkien Reader" - which include “The Leaf by Niggle”.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

The movie adaptation has brought about a new set of editions of CS Lewis' works. I would disregard the derivative works. Concentrate on the original works. Collect the whole Chronicles of Narnia, the Silent Planet Trilogy, “The Screwtape Letters” and for those serious readers the rest of Lewis' works. For movie it wont hurt to check out the movie “Shadowlands”.

Animal Farm

George Orwell's fable has been done twice and both adaptations to put mildly were not good. In both occasions somebody thought of improving the story, bad idea. One does not improve a story on an excellent story.

Anyway, Excellent movie adaptations of books include:

Godfather I and II, Mario Puzo's “The Godfather” includes the story of Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone. The ending though was a more powerful in the book.

“The Princess Bride”, this is an odd-one. It seems to be more of a book adapted from the movie. The movie is nice and the book is a nice read. It pays that the screenwriter and writer of the book are the same, William Goldman.

James Ivory's film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's “The Remains of the Day” is a gem. The book more so.

A book and film are two mediums to express a story. Movies are dynamic and visually overwhelming. However, it is limited by time (there is a human limitation to the amount we can watch) and by the caprices or tastes of all its creators. A book or written word can be dynamic but works on the individual level, it uses word to describe action and it uses phrases to impart subtle and not-subtle meaning to these actions. It may not be visually overwhelming but it works effectively in imprinting an image in our conscience. More effectively than any film can.

By the way, I am now reading Annie Proulux's "Broke Back Mountain" it should be an interesting read.


Blogger vonjobi said...

i'm a william goldman fan. "the princess bride" was written for his daughters after he asked them what story they wanted him to tell. one said "princess," the other said "bride." and so, the story would be about a princess bride =)

anyway, one movie that i found better than the book was "the silence of the lambs."

2:42 AM  
Blogger juned said...

Hmm, That is an interesting fact. A few years ago it was almost impossible to find the book in the Philippines. You can get a copy now at Fully Booked, I saw it a couple of weeks ago. The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon novels by Thomas Harris is better than the movie adaptations.

6:16 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home