Thursday, July 12, 2007
Booking Through Thursday: Celluloid
In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie? The worst? Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference?
I enjoy watching movies almost as much as I enjoy reading books. I am able to enjoy a movie for the movie's sake, regardless of how accurately it follows a well loved book. The two are very different mediums, often aimed at varying audiences, have different limitations and constraints, and therefore, my expectations for each are also different. This in no way means I do not notice the differences or make note of them. I take all of that in. I cannot help to, but I try not to let it detract from my enjoyment of one medium or the other.
That said, five movies come to mind immediately in reference to the first part of the question, what is the best translation of book to a movie. While the below list may not necessarily be my favorite movies that were based on books, I think these films are among the best translated from books in spirit and content to the screen. They are movies I enjoyed very much, even almost as much as the books.
- Simon Langton's Pride and Prejudice (book by Jane Austen), the 1996 mini series most often referred to as the "Colin Firth version".
- Susanna White's Jane Eyre (book by Charlotte Bronte), the 2006 mini series that created quite a buzz when it first hit the airwaves.
- Rob Riener's Princess Bride (book by William Goldman) - Although there are some differences, I include this one because the tone, mood, and atmosphere of the book was translated so well to the big screen.
- Clint Eastwood's Mysttic River (book by Dennis Lehane)
- Jonathan Demme 's Silence of the Lambs (book by Thomas Harris)
(I purposefully am not including my all-time favorite, The Lord of the Rings books and movies because so much was left out when the movies were translated to the big screen. So, as a direct translation, I wasn't comfortable listing it. Still, of all the movies made based on books, the Lord of the Rings movies take the cake. They were awesome.)
I think I block out the worst of them. They must not be very memorable, anyway. Going back to movies I have recently seen the ones I can think of off the top of my head with a little nudge from Anjin include
- Scott McGehee and David Siegel's Bee Season (book by Myla Goldberg) - I admit the book itself was not among my favorites, but I did enjoy it to some degree. There were a lot of changes made from book to movie. I found the movie to be boring and did not care for it.
- Stefen Fangmeier's Eragon (book by Christopher Paolini) - I did enjoy the movie on some level, but it really was a poor translation of the book and the movie suffered for it.
Anjin's offering to the worst list, is Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. The movie was pretty bad, I agree, but I have not yet read the book and so cannot count it among my own list.
Of all the above mentioned books, I read the book first with one exception, The Princess Bride. I saw the movie several times before I first read the book. If given the choice, I much prefer to read the book first. Interestingly enough, while there are many movies I have watched and will want to see that are based on books I have no interest reading, I tend to always want to see the movie based on a book I have read.