Over the past week I’ve visited the cinema twice and on both occasions I’ve gone to watch a film based on a book. Now I’ve blogged about my views on books-to-movies before, but it really does seem as if the film companies are learning a thing or two if these latest offerings are anything to go by.
I read We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Schriver, a few years ago. Haunting, well written and disturbing, I enjoyed the book, although at first found it a hard read at times. Once I’d finished the story I felt quite exhausted to be honest and slightly uncomfortable. On leaving the cinema the other night after seeing the film version, once again I felt emotionally drained and not quite sure if what I’d experienced was pleasant or not.
Tilda Swinton is amazing as Kevin’s mother, her acting is bound to get her numerous awards for her performance. She looked and acted in a mysterious way, similar to what I’d imagined when reading the book. The actors playing Kevin at each stage of the film were reflective of how his character is described and built up in the written version and was very believable.
I did think there might be more made of the school scenes – I won’t go into detail for those people who haven’t seen it – but in a way I think it was good because they didn’t try to gain audience numbers by focussing on gore.
Sometimes I do find that when the film diverts from the book too much you end up thinking it possibly would have been more enjoyable if you’d never read the book before. If anything, it was the opposite with We Need To Talk About Kevin, at times I thought filmgoers would be a little lost if they weren’t familiar with the book. Surely that’s the point though? What’s the point of making a film of a book if it doesn’t reflect it and clashes with reader’s expectations and imaginations?
It was so refreshing to see a film made from a book that reflected it so well. When I saw One Day I again loved the way it stayed true to the book, however I didn’t agree with the casting for the main characters.
A slightly more fun experience was going to see The Help. I thought it was amazing and again would expect to see a few awards dished out. The Help offered a mix of thought provoking scenes, moments that made the audience laugh and also times that brought tears to the eyes.
I’d seen a few reviews being extremely positive about The Help and friends and colleagues had commented how much like the book it is. They were completely right, it really was like seeing the words on the book come to life on the big screen. Skeeter, Abileen, Minnie and Hilly were all so well cast and were very convincing.
I hadn’t read the book for quite a while when I saw the film, but it is one of those reads I have always remembered as I truly loved it. When you did the inevitable comparison, which always happen when you see a film after having read the book beforehand, you weren’t met with disappointment. You didn’t come up with suggestions you felt would have worked better. You just smiled and were left content that the characters in your head when reading had now leapt out the book and onto a big screen in front of your eyes.
When I’ve been to see films based on books and been disappointed I have often wondered if it’s simply because books rely on our imaginations and each reader’s perception of the story and main protagonists involved will differ. However, after seeing these two films and how well they mirror the books, I don’t think this is the case. If the film is done well, readers won’t be left unhappy.
Is this the way forward? Are we going to find filmmakers ensure they stay true to the written word and if being given the opportunity to bring a book to life make sure they do it properly? All I can say is I truly hope so. If We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Help are anything to go by, then they’ll without doubt be on to a winner.