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.


  1. You know...I never even thought about Mystic River. That movie was just so good!

    I adore The Princess Bride, the movie. But I hold my head in shame! I have never read the book. I need to get on that!

  2. I agree with you on "the Colin Firth version" of P and P, and I like your lists! This might be controversial, but I really liked the movie version of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, with Juliette Binoche, Daniel Day Lewis and Lena Olin, directed by Philip Kaufman. The book was elliptical, and the movie straightened the story out into something approaching a linear narrative for me, and I liked that.

    And I love The Princess Bride! "Incontheivable!" My kids go around saying, "I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" (But I promise, they're nice, non-violent kids.) I read the book after seeing the movie, and love both...

  3. I need to read Mystic River. My TBR & TBW list is growing with this BTT!

  4. I've got to agree with you on nearly that entire list, except for the last three, which I haven't seen. Loved the Princess Bride! Perhaps I should pick the book up some time.

  5. Hi Wendy, great list!

    I did mention to you before that I haven't watched Silence of the Lambs, didn't I? LOL. But I have the books, and I intend to read it one day.

    Eragon! Yes, I enjoyed the movies. That's why I bought the book. :P Personally I still think books are much better than movies. ;)

  6. Hi Wendy! LOTR definitely win hands-down for me. I've read the book before the movie came out. I think it was very well translated though many details were left out. But still, it was one cool movie. :D

  7. Mystic River is often the first one that comes to mind when I think of best adaptations. It was very close to the book.

    Haha! I think a lot of people haven't read the book and that's okay. I probably wouldn't have had it not been a group read for a group I was in one year and hubby just happened to have two copies (neither of which he'll part with).

    Gentle Reader - I haven't read or seen The Unbearable Lightness of Being and so you won't get any argument from me. :-) I should do that though.

    LOL I am sure your children are as close to angels as children can be. :-) My husband and I sometimes spout out quotes from that movie. My husband's favorite to use on me is "As you wish." He's the one who got me to watch the movie (which I actually thought was corny the first time I saw it--it's grown on me and I really like it now).

    Kristy - I know what you mean. There's a lot of great books being mentioned with this BTT.

    Siew - I know not everyone was happy with the book Princess Bride because of the author's asides, but I really enjoyed those parts.

    Melody - Thank you! I think any time a movie makes you want to read a book it's a movie well worth having seen! I did like Eragon in some respects, but it was pale in comparison with the book. You are probably better off having seen the movie first really. :-)

    Alice - The Lord of the Rings movies were fantastic, I agree. I think that the writers and Peter Jackson did the best they could with the material and did it very well.

  8. Great answers, here are mine:

  9. Personally, I don't think Starship Troopers was either a good book or a good movie, but I know it's the favorite book for many men of my generation. Come to that, the movie was acceptable to a younger generation of males as well. Must be a guy thing...

  10. It could be a guy thing. :-) I've enjoyed the other Heinlein books I've read very much, although I can't say Starship Troopers is anywhere near the top of my must read list. I'm sure I'll give it a try though.


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