Saturday, 27 August 2011

Bringing books to life or killing them?

Tonight I went to see One Day at the cinema. A book turned into a film. As soon as I hear rumours or see the trailers for book to movie situations I start to worry. Is turning books into films a good idea? Should they just be left well alone? If a book is well written and is hugely popular is it wrong to make a film off the back of it and in turn make money? I remain undecided on this point.

Over the years I’ve seen my fair share of films which could be seen as points for or against these situations. Tonight’s choice I admit I did enjoy, bar Ms Hathaway’s ‘Northern’ accent. But in the back of my mind I have asked myself is this because I haven’t read the book in quite some time?

To me the beauty of books is that your imagination can run wild, each character is built within the mind of the reader and I believe we all have our own interpretation of what these people should look, sound and behave like. The story comes to life described by the words on the pages in front of you and your head a whole world opens up as you work through the book.

So then what happens when somebody comes from out of the blue, uses their ideas of how the characters work and then tries to reflect this on the big screen? It’s pretty inevitable their opinions and impressions aren’t going to match everyone’s. Also add in the limitations of film length, suitable ‘well-known’ big names who can play said roles and you start a slippery slope to offending bookworms and fans of the story.

In terms of enjoying a good film, the book-to-movie experience can also be bad as a cinema goer. This can happen in two main ways – you’ve read the book and can remember the details completely, you’ve built everything in your mind of how it works and looks, so that when you see the film you spend the whole time comparing it to the book. Alternatively you’ve never seen the book, yet when these films are made often some previous reader knowledge is assumed (or is needed) to get the full feel of the story/character’s journey. Yet again leading to frustration.

Coming up later this year are two other text to visual productions – The Help and We Need To Talk About Kevin, both books I thoroughly enjoyed. On watching One Day tonight I do feel slightly more hopeful, perhaps a good balance between being true to the book and developing something suitable for the big screen is being more closely adhered to?

In the case of Lovely Bones, for example, although I enjoyed the film I don’t really think it truly did the book justice and I didn’t agree at all with the casting of Susie’s parents.
Am I right to be so critical of such films or do we just need to accept they are going to be different and in fact is this a good thing? We get to discover the story in a whole new light? Or should good books just be left at that and not developed further, so we can see what we’re reading about?

One thing I have noticed of late is that I am getting gradually soppier as I get older. I’ve always been known amongst friends, work colleagues and the like as someone who isn’t really seen to cry. Not anymore. Not long ago I cried at Rise of the planet of the apes and now tonight I had tears running down my face at One Day. Let’s hope the book I’m reading at the moment on my Kindle doesn’t turn out too sad, else the commute is going to be interesting…

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