To film or not to film... : LUSENET : Planning A Sky : One Thread

Did you see Hamlet? Did you like it? How do you feel about filmed versions of Shakespeare, or filmed versions of ANYTHING dear to you? Do you always read the book first? Or after? Were you outraged by any filmed versions of something you love?

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2000


I'm still confused as to whether or not the Baz version of Romeo and Juliet (oops, Romeo + Juliet) was good.. i think it was good for what it was, but what it was isn't all that much. Generally i like adult "modernizations" of Shakespeare, my favorite being Cybil Shepard and Bruce Willis adapting the Taming of the Shrew in Moonlighting.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2000

When I was in high school, I loved the book The Prince of Tides. Like, obsessively. I passed it on to my dear friend Reid, and he loved it, too. We watched the movie together in my parents' living room when it came out on video, and I will never forget watching his reaction. His hands never left his head as he literally pulled on his hair. "They're shredding it!" he cried, during nearly every scene.

It was sad.

There were scenes in the film that I thought were adapted well, such as the one when the kids hold hands underwater to hide from the trauma of their family life -- but I've decided, bottom line, that when you love a book, you risk altering the images of the story in your mind and heart forever when you sit down to watch a film adaptation of it. No matter how good the casting might be, the characters never look like you pictured them in your imagination. No how talented the screenwriter -- even if it's the author of the book - - there will be scenes and moments left out that you loved, and there will be scenes and moments added that you think don't fit or that are interpreted so differently from how they were in the book that you just want to forget you ever saw them.

And you know what really bugs me? When people who have not read the book go on and on about how good the movie is, and I just want to tell them they have no idea what in the hell they're talking about.

I've learned that sometimes I would rather pass on the movie than risk either being infuriated or broken-hearted by the way the book I love is presented onscreen. But maybe I take my books a little too personally.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

Ah, one of my favorite topics. This is going to be a long one...

I think that the key to reconciling book vs. movie conflicts is to view the movie as a separate entity unto itself.

One of my favorite books is John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany." I just loved every moment of that book with all of my heart. I loved Owen and the town and his quest to figure out why God made him the way he was, and oh, just the *whole world* that Irving created.

Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive when I went to see "Simon Birch" at the movies because, while it was based on "Owen Meany," all I kept hearing about it was that it was called "Simon Birch" because Irving had pulled out of the adaptation and it wasn't going to remain totally faithful to "Owen." But I went anyway, because Oliver Platt was in it and well, I'd watch Oliver Platt eat soup for two hours.

The critics were partially correct -- "Simon Birch" was significantly different than "Owen Meany", particularly the ending. "SB" was, in essence," a film adaptation of an *excerpt* from Irving's book, and therefore, if you were going into that movie expecting a true representation of what Irving had written, you weren't going to get it. I remember so many of my friends being outraged at what "SB" had turned out to be. As for me, I liked "Simon Birch." I thought it was sweet and nostalgic and evocative of childhood. I thought they did a good job of capturing some of the magic that Irving imbued "Owen Meany" with. And I loved the kid who played Simon. But, I think I liked it because I never expected it to be "Owen Meany." Owen Meany is too long to faithfully adapt for the screen, unless you're planning on doing a Gone with the Wind or a mini-series. Ther was no way that a 2-hour film could have covered everything John Irving did in his HUGE novel. But because I had no expectations that Simon Birch would faithfully adapt Owen Meany to the letter, I was able to enjoy the film for what it was -- A sweet story that was inspired by Irving's wonderful work.

It's particularly tough when you're looking at an adaptation of such a long work. This was one of the problems that Stephen King faced when people offered to buy the film rights to "The Stand." The book is so long and so detailed with so many characters and events, that a 2-3 hour motion picture could not do it justice. I remember reading an interview where he said he was hesitant to sell the film-rights to the Stand because so many of his readers loved that book and those characters so much that he didn't want to disappoint them by having them go into a movie and have Stuart or Harold or Frannie look completely different than they had imagined.

King finally agreed to let ABC make a mini-series out of it, and I think it was excellent. I think it worked particularly well because King remained involved in the production, writing the screenplay and I think he also had some say in the casting of it. King is always great about giving you such wonderful descriptions of his characters, that you know exactly who he is talking about, so when I saw the characters in the mini-series, they pretty much fit the images I had of them in my head. Gary Sinise was perfect for Stuart and Migeul Ferrar was my picture of Lloyd come to life and even though I never would have chosen Molly Ringwald for Frannie and Rob Lowe for Nick, once I started watching them, I realized how close they were to the people I had pictured in my head. The only glaring difference I saw was casting Corin Nemic (Parker Lewis) as Harold, since Harold starts off the book as grossly obese, but I think that was more due to the fact that you can't have an actor gain a whole bunch of weight and then lose it so quickly.

But that was a case in which I was pleased with the adaptation of a book that is very special to me.

Of course, I've sat through some atrocious adaptations, too. Things where I've left the theater, saying, "Why bother to have made this into a movie at all if you're just going to ruin it?" Funnily enough, I hated the mini-series of Stephen King's "It." God, Harry Anderson as Ritchie? I think not.

And don't even get me started on what Clint Eastwood did to "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Even the presence of John Cusack and Kevin Spacey couldn't save that one.

I'm actually kind of worried that this is going to be the case with "The Virgin Suicides." I read the novel years ago and I wonder how good this adaptation will be.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

Kate, I think Kirsten Dunst is fabulous, so maybe the V.S. will be good -- althought I'm a little worried about the Sofia Copolla factor.

You make a good point about keeping the books and the movies SEPARATE. That's always been really hard for me. I think I shall try to follow your advice on that in the future, because I get, like, irrationally upset sometimes.

God help me when it's time for Harry Potter to make the leap to the silver screen. I'm not sure my nerves are going to be able to take it. It would be great if all of us journallers who love Harry & Co. could convene in some supernatural theater where we could transcend geography and be there to squeal and cheer and hold each other's hands and hold each other back from sending hate mail to Chris Columbus if it all turns out badly.

Oh, well. A girl can dream...

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

If I didn't keep books and movies separate, I'd go nuts--and in some cases, I still do.

I saw the movie of "The Prince of Tides" first, and loved it. I then read the book, and loved that too. I read "Dune" first, and then saw the movie, and absolutely LOVE the movie in that hokey cultist sort of fashion.

But (excuse my language) don't fuck with the books of my childhood. Is there a REASON they can't film "A Little Princess" AS WRITTEN for the big screen? It's not even REMOTELY CLOSE. HER. FATHER. DIES. Ugh!! I'm pissed all over again.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000


I just read in Us Weekly (which I'm praying is unreliable) that Julianna Margulies (a.k.a. Saint Carol Hathaway) is currently working on a film of The Mists of Avalon with Anjelica Huston.

Does anyone have any more information on this?


Oh, Christ. It's true. I just looked it up on IMDB.

Morgaine: Julianna Margulies Viviane: Anjelica Huston Launcelot: Michael Varton

From IMDB: "Based on the bestseller by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It tells the story of the women behind King Arthur; including his mother, Igraine; his half-sister, Morgaine; his aunt Viviane, the Lady of the Lake; and his wife, Gwenwyfar."

Release date: 2001 Status: Filming Director: Ulrich Edel

And it says it's a "mini." Does this mean "miniseries"? Like "Gulliver's Travels"? Or "Jason and the Fucking Argonauts"?!? Is this going to be on during next year's sweeps?

I think I'm going to have a heart attack.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 2000

To film or not to film is a fantastic conflict. First, after reading some of the responses online, I'd like to clarify the format of a movie vs. a book. Having taken many screenplay writing courses, it becomes clear to a writer that the format of a novel and the format of a screenplay are two different worlds. The novel is able to get into a characters head, while a movie mostly (without voice over narration)focus on a character's actions. Rather than a character defining himself/herself by his/her thoughts, like in a novel, in a movie a character defines himself/herself by his/her choice to act or not act in a certain situation. For example: a movie begins with a bank robbery. One of the main characters, the robber, gets put in a situation where he has to shoot someone or else he'll get caught. Based on his decision to kill or not kill, to choose freedom or captivity, the audicence will learn something about this character's thoughts, values, and personality. This is why I can't stand when a person who has loved a book, goes into a movie expecting to experience the movie the same why they did the book. A movie that has been well adapted from a novel should be different than the book because it is a different medium of story telling. However, if done right (like the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice), the movie will feel true to the book because they have captured the essence of the story. I believe some writers of novels or plays are natural screenplay writers...take Shakespeare for instance. A natural screenplay writer. If you take out the long expressive dialouge, the pulp of his plays are all about action. Take Hamlet for instance...he understands that he defines himself by the choices he be or not to act or to remain passive. Shakespeare defines his characters just like screenplay writer does: by their actions. In sympathy, however, to someone who feels that their book has been butchered by a movie, the TNT adaption of Mists of Avalon was TERRIBLE. HORRIBLE. That is my most beloved book, and I do still think it could be made into a wonderful movie...if put into the right hands. I'd love any comments to what I have written. --Jess

-- Anonymous, July 18, 2002

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