Film adaptations of literature

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jaxon's Dad, Sep 6, 2004.

  1. Jaxon's Dad

    Jaxon's Dad Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 1999
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Mid-West, USA
    Real Name:
    Doug
    I am a huge fan of literature and often try to imagine what a true film adaptation would look like. Of course film and literature are two different mediums, but it still is a fun distraction. The closest to a true literary adaptation that I've ever seen is Mario Puzo's The Godfather. The Lord of the Rings comes in a close second. I've got in my head a great opening sequence for a true literary adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. If the 1939 The Wizard of Oz weren't so part of the public consciousness, I would love to see a series of films adapting each of the Oz books. In Doug's World, a mini-series adaption of Tarzan of the Apes has possibilities. Any other ideas or suggestions?
     
  2. Nick Senger

    Nick Senger Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2002
    Messages:
    192
    Likes Received:
    0
    The world deperately needs a serious, sensitive film of Don Quixote, made with the same care and attention that Jackson gave to LOTR.
     
  3. Brian Co

    Brian Co Extra

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    0




    This should have been Terry Gillain's adaptation, which unfortunately was sunk by a combination of poor financing, an injured lead actor, and natural disasters on location. For an intriguing look at how this highly anticipated film fell apart at the seems, check out "Lost In La Mancha".

    To add another to the list, Martin Scorsese's "The Age Of Innocence" is a very good adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel.
     
  4. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2001
    Messages:
    6,289
    Likes Received:
    117
    Real Name:
    Adam_S
    David Lean's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are absolutely superb, GE usually gets a bit more recognition but I myself prefer Twist on film. For that matter Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia are great films but I'm not at all familiar with the original texts.



    Lord of the Flies has one hell of an adaptation from Peter Brook, in fact the actual film has a special credit to show that they didn't adapt the book, it's FROM the book. It's a little clunky because of the independent production values but it's a fabulous piece of work if you overlook some of that.



    Empire of the Sun, imo transcends the book (which is so richly woven with sleight of hands, symbolism, layered meanings, and subtle delights that only gradually reveal themselves. He's not just making a film about the loss of innocence or the horrors of war. He's also posing a superb artistic question about the society that enforces adolesence as a deadly battleground between its fatally flawed constructions of childhood and adulthood. Jim is clearly a fully formed person when we meet him, but he has no agency, he relies on his parents and society completely, but those are ripped from him (help me I'm British) and he only slowly begins to develop the vocabulary of maturity. How much was lost and how much was gained between the boy who joyously rode his bike through his mansion and the boy who madly rode another bike through the ruins of his prison? Did he really become adult--a different person--or does he remain a child still needing his parents. Or better yet, was he a person the entire time, whose hopes, dreams, ideas, loves, hates, and curiosities are equal to any supposedly superior adult's?
     
  5. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2002
    Messages:
    2,950
    Likes Received:
    1
    I haven't read A Clockwork Orange but I understand the film is very faithful to the source material.

    I have read Schnitzler's Traumnovelle and I found Eyes Wide Shut to be a very faithful adaptation, with only a few significant changes (the setting, the addition of Mandy and the Doctor to tie the 3 acts of the film together, one of the wife's dreams is much longer in the book than in the film).
     
  6. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12




    Yes, but they are not faithful to the books. The film of GE has a radically different ending (and there are two alternative endings for the GE book to choose from).

    For those that don't know, the alternative endings to GE are:



    Spoiler:In the original, Pip definitely remains alone. At the suggestion of Bulwer Lytton, Dickens offered a revised version a few years later. He meets up with Estella, now widowed. Whether he marries her or they simply have a platonic friendship is left ambiguous.



    An adaptation rather more faithful to the book was the made for TV version done a few years ago with Anthony Hopkins as Magwich.







    Er - not really. Anthony Burgess was furious with Kubrick for missing out the final chapter. In essence:



    Spoiler:In the American edition of the book, for various reasons the final chapter is missing, leaving Alex recovered, but still basically a nasty little thug. In the British edition, which Burgess considered definitive, there is another chapter in which we meet up with Alex a few years later. Basically, he has outgrown the violence and is now a 'normal' citizen.
     
  7. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2001
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, since Kubrick started with and preferred the American version's darker tone, I think it only added to the film. Heck, who knows how many prisons would've started applying Ludovico therapy after seeing it successful in ACO [​IMG] Often times, as with hundreds of LOTR debates, the director/scribe has to take artistic license in making adapting it appropriately for cinema, a whole different animal from literature.



    Nothing against the text, but I enjoyed EWS much, much more in Kubrick's adaptation than my preception the text.



    Speaking of adaptations, I can't wait for Spielberg/Marshall's MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, as the book (until the end) was quite a read and difficult to put aside [​IMG]
     
  8. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2003
    Messages:
    3,034
    Likes Received:
    1
    Maybe it's because I saw the movie before I read the book, but when I came to read the novel of A Clockwork Orange, I really hated the final chapter. It basically seemed to say Spoiler:that it was all just a teenage phase that he outgrew. I just cannot accept that or believe it. Maybe if we saw a bit more of his growth and change in the novel, it would make sense. However, as it stands, he is the Alex we all know and love until the end of chapter 20, then we skip a few years, and he's a new person. No real explanation of why this change occured. I hated the ending. I thought it was a total betrayal of what was, up to then, a brilliant novel. I still think it is a brilliant piece of writing that I would recommend to anyone. Just expect the final chapter to let you down.

    I believe Kubrick never even knew about the existence of capter 21 until after he had made the film.
     
  9. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12
    Matthew, the ending makes a lot more sense if you know some of the background to the book.



    Spoiler:At the time Burgess was writing, there was a lot of concern about the amount of teenage violence and vandalism (mainly teddy boys - the principal inspiration for Alex and his gang - and motorcycle gangs). However, research during this period demonstrated that in nearly all cases teenage thugs grew out of their antisocial behaviour within a few years regardless of intervention. Without the final chapter, deconditioning Alex has far less moral rationale, as what happens is that a dangerous killer is let back into society, without hope or expectation that he'd ever change. Given that Burgess was frighteningly well read and expected his readers to be similarly well-versed, he'd expect that his readers would be aware of the issues involved. It should also be noted that when Burgess wrote the novel he thought he was dying. He rattled off Clockwork Orange along with several other books as quick money-earners for his wife. The books were intended for immediate consumption and he said later that had he known that the death fears were a false alarm, he'd have taken greater care over the background in Clockwork Orange and fleshed out the characters to a greater extent.

    FWIW, I think that Burgess's preferred ending is right for the literary form, but Kubrick's choice is better for the film version.
     
  10. RichD

    RichD Agent

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2002
    Messages:
    37
    Likes Received:
    0
    It doesn't get more literary than Shakespeare!


    My personal favorites is Mel Gibson's Hamlet (though many don't care for it), which just came out. Another is Olivier's Henry V, which is available from Criterion.


    Both are faithful to the text, except Mel (as well as Olivier in his Hamlet) went for the lame Oedipus complex reading of Gertrude.

    Unfortunately, Branagh's Oedipus-free Hamlet isn't out. It's notable for presenting the entire play, but in odd, not-quite-period costume. Most film productions cut out good stuff to keep things under 3+ hours. There's an old thread on here discussing favorite Shakespeare on DVD with more views.
     
  11. Bill Williams

    Bill Williams Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 28, 2003
    Messages:
    1,699
    Likes Received:
    0
    That's the interesting part about film adaptations of literary works. There's always room for some kind of interpretation somewhere.

    When I was in graduate school, two of the classes I took were Film and Literature and a graduate course in Shakespeare. The Film and Literature class gave us the opportunity to analyze various books and plays, followed by their cinematic counterparts. In each instance, something occurred that was interpreted as literal, faithful, or loose.

    "Gone With the Wind" would be considered, in my mind, somewhere between literal and faithful. The first part of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" was brilliantly adapted in the 1930's with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon (though the second half of Bronte's book, basically "Wuthering Heights: The Next Generation" in essence, was not adapted for that film).

    More recently, films such as "The Hunt for Red October" and the first "Jurassic Park" could be considered faithful adaptations because they stick close to the original source novels, while "Patriot Games" and "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" are more of loose translations because of drastically major changes from the book for the film. Some things just don't simply translate well for the screen; hence the reworkings.

    In the case of Shakespeare's works, all we have are his scripts to begin with, thereby lending themselves to umpteen many different adaptations and variations on the characters and their portrayals. Take "Hamlet". How Laurence Olivier set up the possible Hamlet-Gertrude affair was different, because Olivier was at least 10 years older than the actress who was playing Hamlet's mother Gertrude. In that version he had Hamlet putting the moves on Gertrude. Yet in Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 version (which my professor assigned to me because of the film), Glenn Close was about 10 years older than Mel Gibson, and he set it up so that Gertrude was putting the moves on Hamlet. Which interpretation is correct? It's up to the viewer to decide, simply because the original Shakespearean works are scripts designed for actors to interpret.

    Also, Olivier went for the more "men in tights" feel, while Zeffirelli went for the more realistic look of the 16th century mode of dress. Both of these versions are, again, subject to interpretation - faithful or literal?

    Kenneth Branagh certainly had as much right to adapt the complete "Hamlet" script for his four-hour opus and translating it to 19th century Europe. Where does his work fall? Somewhere again between literal and faithful: literal because he used the entire original Shakespearean script, and faithful because he modified the settings, the costume, everything.

    In the case of Richard Matheson's "Bid Time Return", which he adapted into the wonderful romantic fantasy "Somewhere in Time" for Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, he again had to take liberties from his original novel to bring it to the screen, retaining much of the original story yet changing on-surface elements throughout. One significant subplot of the original novel never made it to the screen, though. In the original novel, Spoiler:Matheson posited that the entire trip back in time was nothing more than a dream Richard Collier experienced, because Collier was dying of an inoperable brain tumor. Therefore, this adaptation is more of a faithful version of the book.

    Interesting discussion thread. [​IMG]
     
  12. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2002
    Messages:
    4,042
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'd like to see a straight adaptation of The Time Machine. And the unofficial sequel, The Time Ships, for that matter.
     
  13. Mike Brogan

    Mike Brogan Second Unit

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2002
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    0
    That's interesting about the different versions of "A Clockwork Orange". I read the book after watching (and loving) the movie and thought it was a pretty faithful adaption. Other than the Droogs looking older than they were in the book I thought it was one of the most faithful adaptations I had seen. I've got to say, I can't imagine the film ending any other way.



    As for other adaptations, I think "Misery" is one of the few films that is better than the book. And the "Simon Birch" bastardization of "A Prayer For Owen Meany" may be one of the worst book to film crimes ever.



    Also, "A Confederacy of Dunces" is one that I'm worried about. I like Will Ferrel but him playing 'Ignatius J. Reilly' makes me question if the makers even read the book. I hope I'm wrong.
     
  14. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2003
    Messages:
    3,034
    Likes Received:
    1
    You're right. Alex was supposed to be, what, 14, 15? I was always astonished to hear that he was supposed to be in school.



    Absolutely. I'm not a big Stephen King fan, but I have read the odd book where I have seen the film (Misery, The Shining, The Green Mile), and I always feel like, particular with Shining and Misery, while the books have great ideas, he just seems to go too far, and the film versions rein him in. Misery the novel has that ride-on mower death that is just silly, and the Shining has the living topiary and the frankly excessive boiler-room ending. Both films took the good from the books, but left the stuff that went too far to be able to believe.
     
  15. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 1998
    Messages:
    7,585
    Likes Received:
    0
    I actually just took a class explicitly on the Film Adaptation. Pretty interesting stuff when you really look at it, and even more so when I tied it into my Screenwriting classes which helped indicate how strongly the different mediums of writing are (forget the film production even).

    I'm not that hard on most adaptations, and for the record there are hella more films based on lit than on original scripts. Often people don't even know that there was an original piece of lit behind the film.


    As for an adaptation I'd like to see...Neuromancer, but done with more care than Johnny Mneumonic was. When you consider what The Matrix was able to do, and now what Sky Captain has created with almost total CGI, I think a lot of the world of Neuromancer could come to life pretty well and with acceptance of the characters by audiences.

    Just as long as it stays closer to the Blade Runner/Matrix style of film, rather than going for cheap popcorn action.

    Hell, just give me the scene where the Rasta dude says "Just tell me who ya don' wan' me ta kill". Bad ass stuff. [​IMG]
     
  16. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12




    The costumes in Branagh's Hamlet are fairly typical of many staged productions of Shakespeare, at least in the UK. They are staged in a strange sort of 'past land' - vaguely 19th century but not really possible to pin down to a specific period. The idea is to impress that this is a different world without distracting over precise period detail.



    To be honest, I don't think the 'historical accuracy' issue really matters. We know that in Shakespeare's time, historical plays were done in contemporary dress (e.g. there are various anachronistic lines in Julius Caesar that attest to this), so I dont think it's necessary to worry over costumes, since clearly it never bothered Shakespeare. And if it didn't bother him, why should we care?



    Incidentally, if you ever get the chance to see a Shakespeare play staged exactly as it would have been in his own day, then do so. Men and boys playing all the women's roles, doublet and hose, the play ending with a dance - all very very odd to our eyes and ears.
     
  17. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2003
    Messages:
    3,034
    Likes Received:
    1
    They end with a dance? I have never heard of that. The rest I knew, but a dance? What, Hamlet Spoiler:dies then Spoiler:stands up and dances? That does sound weird.
     
  18. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12




    I'm really not trying to pull anyone's leg (sorry, I mean yank anyone's chain) with this. Honestly, really, and truly, nearly all Shakespeare's plays (and indeed other contemporary dramas) ended with the cast doing a dance on stage. Several of the early editions of WS's plays end with the stage instruction 'dance' (or similar) and it's generally assumed that all of them ended with a dance, even the serious ones (e.g. Othello, and they don't get much more intensely miserable than that). It wouldn't have seemed odd to the contemporary audiences, any more than e.g. the music and end titles on a movie appear to us.



    In London, the Globe Theatre re-enacts plays every summer in the same style as Shakespeare's day (all male casts, etc) and they end with a dance. And very strange it looks, too. Bear in mind, however, that we're talking about a fairly formal courtly dance (imagine one of those rather complex barndances but with better music and you'll get the general idea).



    One other thing whilst I'm boring everyone with trivia - Shakespeare's plays in his own day were undobtedly played far faster than today. There's the famous statement at the start of one of his plays that what follows will last no more than two hours (most modern productions are lucky to come in at under three hours), and it's generally reckoned that the dialogue was spoken at a much faster rate than today, with no hanging around between speeches.
     
  19. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2003
    Messages:
    3,034
    Likes Received:
    1
    I hope I didn't sound like I thought you were joking about it. I believed you. I was just surprised as I had never heard of it, and the idea seemed a bit odd - but no more odd that all male casts.



    Do you mean Romeo and Juliet, with the "two-hour traffic of our stage" line? I've often wondered about that line. Two hours? Did they measure an hour differently back in Elizabethan times? Interesting to learn that they just delivered the whole thing quicker. (I guess it helps when people are used to the language - these days lines must be delivered slowly because neither the actors nor the audience are generally used to delivering such words, and they must take their time to ensure the message is delivered.)
     
  20. Kevin Hewell

    Kevin Hewell Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2003
    Messages:
    2,188
    Likes Received:
    102
    I'm a huge Anne Rice fan and I thought the film adaptation of Interview With the Vampire was done very well (except for that stupid ending). I normally can't stand Tom Cruise but I thought he really brought Lestat to life (so to speak).



    Don't get me started on Queen of the Damned, though.
     

Share This Page