I have been burnt by book to film adaptations before. There was the travesty that was The Time Traveller's Wife. I sat in shock for half the movie, willing things to get just a bit better and realising, with the passing of each painful minute, that it wasn't going to happen. I couldn't understand it. How could such an achingly beautiful, heartrending, passionate love story turn into such an awful, confusing muddle on screen?
Then there was the Hollywood version of The Scarlet Letter, with Demi Moore as adulteress Hester Prynne. It was excruciating to sit through. The plot nowhere resembled the book, and the film had a new ending that would have make Nathaniel Hawthorne turn in his grave.
Don't get me wrong. There have been a few decent book to film adaptations, most recently The Hunger Games, but also Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Power of One and The Road. But overall, the trend has gone the other way round.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to what makes an adaptation actually work. Even if the director follows the book's plot down to the letter, it could all still turn to tears. On the other hand, there have been movies that exceed the book, such as The Godfather.
This year is an exciting one for me though, because some of my favourite books have been made into up-and-coming films. In order of excitement (click on the links for the trailers):
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas was always going to be an ambitious film for anyone to undertake, because of its unusual narrative structure - six interlocking stories that feed back into each other, crossing different times and universes. But I have extreme high hopes based on the trailer, which is visually raw, poignant and messed-up in all the right ways. This is one of my favourite books ever, defying genres and with prose that makes you want to read and re-read to make sure you haven't missed anything out. It's the first big project for the Wachowski Brothers (or the Wachowski brother and sister - one of them got a sex change) since The Matrix, and I can't wait to see their interpretation of the story.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The latest incarnation of The Great Gatsby is by Baz Luhrmann and features Leonard DiCaprio. If it's anything like Luhrmann's modern-day interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, then it will be one intense and remarkable ride. My lasting image of Gatsby is of a lone wolf standing alone at the end of his pier, looking across the water to the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. I mean, the dude bought a frickin' mansion just so he could gaze uninterrupted at this green light, which represents the woman he has loved and waited for his entire adult life. Leo is the perfect Gatsby, innocence and longing wrapped in the sweaty towel of life.
World War Z, Max Brooks
I have a confession. I have a thing for zombie apocalypses. But what I've learnt about this particular adaptation is starting to make me feel nervous. For one thing, they've inserted an entire backstory about Gerry Lane, who doesn't exist in the novel - or at least, not in the form the film has given him. I suppose they are relying on Brad Pitt's star power to pull in the crowds, so they have to expand what was originally only a small role. What made World War Z (the novel), work so well were the reportage-style anecdotes, which gave it the kind of gritty realism that really made you suspend disbelief, even in the face of a zombie war. I'm logging this one under the wait-and-see box.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
I was a halfway through uni when Life of Pi first came out, and remember buying it from a half-price book sale at Whitcoulls. It was one of those random, throw-of-the-dice moments that changes your life - because it was the perfect book for a young woman to read. The film version is being directed by Ang Lee, based on a screenplay by David Magee, who also wrote the script for the excellent Finding Neverland. The story poses, in my humble opinion, one of the best philosophical questions ever: do you prefer the version with animals, or without?
Which book to film adaptations are you looking forward to?
Follow me on Twitter
Post a comment