“..leaving the page of the book carelessly open” – Anne Sexton

Books to film

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on March 7, 2009

rroadCurrently I’m reading, and enjoying, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, a book that might not have been on my radar if not for last year’s film adaptation. I’ve yet to see the film, choosing as I usually do, to read the book first. I do this because I am generally disappointed by book to film adaptations. It’s not that easy to put my finger on why so many of them are irritating. I mean, it stands to reason that a shorter medium with a wider audience means that elements of the story have to be changed. I bought the film-tie-in edition (no other edition was available) and even knowing, as the cover indicates, that Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are April and Frank Wheeler is already annoying, just 4 chapters in. It is now not possible for me to read character descriptions without seeing them and I haven’t even seen the film!

In The Reader, for instance, it bugged me that the boy cast as Hannah’s young (underage) lover was really not all that young. The opening scene in the book, in which she picks him up and carries him to a hospital is an important foreshadowing event about their uncanny connection. This new type of coupling changes everything about the story. And again Kate Winslet is in my view the whole time I’m reading Hannah.

(Maybe I just don’t enjoy Kate Winslet? Or perhaps I should have discovered these great books prior to Hollywood?)

At the same time I’m fascinated by the process. I mean, imagine how difficult it was to turn The English Patient, more poetic prose than plot, into a film?

Salman Rushdie recently wrote about this topic for The Guardian. He says, “Everyone accepts that stories and films are different things, and that the source material must be modified, even radically modified, to be effective in the new medium. The only interesting questions are “how?” and “how much?” However, when the original is virtually discarded, it’s difficult to know if the result can be called an adaptation at all.”

The article is a bit long, within it he talks about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire and other adaptations. It’s well worth the read: A Fine Pickle

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