Monday, April 6, 2009

when books are made into movies...

...I usually end up getting pretty disappointed.  I understand that they can never be exactly the same, but somehow I always end up hoping for my exact experience as a reader to be replicated as a movie-goer.  This rarely happens.  I am perpetually excited to hear when I book I enjoyed is being made into a film, but it never turns out like I hope.  For me, the shining exception has always been To Kill A Mockingbird.  To be sure, the book and movie versions are distinct, but they are absolutely of equal quality, and they evoke the same emotions.  Others have come close, but for me, Mary Badham as Scout will always be the best book character come to life.  Perhaps this is because both the book and the movie were created long before I was born.  Still, I read the book before I saw the movie, so I think it still counts.

Now that I have finally come around to accept that movies will be exactly like the books I loved, what is the criteria for a good movie adaptation?  I think my major problem with certain movie adaptations is when major plot points are eliminated, or worse--changed.  I understand that many elements have to be cut, but when whole characters are eliminated, merged, or change beyond recognition, I get upset.  I can think of examples, but I won't mention them here.  Books can do things that films cannot--they allow deeper characterization and exploration that movie-goers may not have time for.  Movies also have benefits over the written word.  Obviously, they literally bring characters to life, but also enhance stories with music and color.  Thoughts?
My new favorite movie adaptation--which prompted this post--is The Secret Life of Bees.  I read the book years ago, and I didn't remember specific details, so maybe that helped my viewing experience.  However, I recalled the essentials and the film nailed them.  More than that, it brought to life the same mesmerizing and enchanting feeling that I experienced while reading the book.  Both mediums created an entirely different world that was a joy to visit.  I recommend both.  After watching the movie this evening, I am tempted to reread the book.  

One final musing:  my biggest pet peeve when it comes to movie adaptations is when they reprint the book with the movie actors on the cover.  I know that people tend to buy books when they are made into popular movies, but do the celebrities really need to be on the covers.  If they do, then fine.  But sometimes, the original version goes out of print and it's almost impossible to find the original cover.  It makes it seem like the book was printed as a companion to the film.  This frustrates me.  But I guess it's not all bad if it prompts viewers to read the text.  And I'll admit that I'm being a bit of a snob here.  Forgive me.  


Jacqueline said...

I agree with you that the movies they made from books can be really different! Sometimes i get disappointed too. I love the book To Kill A mockingbird but i didn't watch the movie...hmm i should pick the movie up and watch too! I didn't read the book The Secret Life of Bees but i saw the movie and i love it...that i will go pick the book up and read! hehe Thank you so much for sharing this with us! Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you!

little miss spy said...

Oh I totally agree, I hate when a good old book gets a new cover with actors! This, in part, has to do with one of the reasons I think movies often fall short: when you read a book you create the characters and settings in your mind. A casting director cannot possible recreate what I've imagined (plus the millions of other people). That said, I agree that it's important to realize that the book and movie can't match. I try to think of them as two completely separate pieces, but that can be really hard.

Thanks for sharing!

Caitlin said...

Thanks for stopping by you guys! I'm so excited to be meeting all these great people through Holly's course! You should definitely watch the TKAM movie and read the Secret Life of Bees book. Both are fantastic!

Oh, you're completely right about picture different people in your head when you're reading a book. That's a big part of what ruins some movie versions for me. Also, sometimes, I mispronounce names in my head and then that totally throws me off when I watch the film. Although I guess I can't really blame the movie for that one!!

Jamie said...

Hi Caitlin!

I'm a fellow Southern classmate from decor8's class :)

I am on your team when it comes to the books having the movie covers - I will pay more to have the original. Plus, I'm a doofus who often buys books because I liked the movie but doesn't want to admit it - the regular cover covers my shame.

Anonymous said...

Ugh book covers with the actors are the worst! One really excellent movie adaption is The Virgin Suicides. Some details in the end change, but just minorly, and it really works best that way in a movie setting. But the tone of the book is precisely captured on film. I love Sophia Coppolla.

The worst was when they tried to make A Prayer for Owen Meany. A thoughtfully written, funny, religiously themed epic story they tried to make simply a comedy. Author John Irving was so insulted they couldn't even use his title (or character name), but some of the scenes are familiar from the book. The movie: Simon Birch. Blech.

WhimsAndInconsistencies said...

As time goes by I'm starting to calm down a little about the book-to-movie transition. Basically, it takes me a long time to read Pride and Prejudice. If I can get the story in two hours instead of two weeks, I'll take what I can get for some quality time with Mr. Darcy.
I also hate celebrity book covers.
You should also watch this video, which disagrees with you greatly and will possibly make you mad, but it's coming from an author who's turning his fabulous book (Paper Towns by John Green) into a movie.
Okay, I've watched about ten four-minute videos trying to find the one I mentioned and I couldn't find it so the moral of the story is: John feels that movies should be different from their books. Since the movie cannot possibly capture the entirety of the book, it should tell a different story, re-explore the themes, etc. I'm really hoping the Paper Towns movie gets made so I can see how this actually plays out.