Book to Film adaption’s – Do They Work?

After recently seeing Lone Scherfig’s movie adaption of David Nicholls One Day I got to thinking about the temperamental success of such endeavours. What is it with book to movie adaption’s? Sometimes they work brilliantly and sometimes they crash and burn so disastrously that we are forced to watch them through half closed eyes, inwardly cringing at the brutal injustice bestowed on a favorite novel.

I’m sure that every book lover out there that has received the news of plans to adapt an adored book to the big screen and have met this news with lots of indignation and plenty of trepidation. But why do some work and some…well just don’t?

Is it that with some books we love them so dearly that we can never fully shake of our protective and biased eyes for long enough to enjoy them? Or is it that some books should simply be left on the written page? Not tampered with, just left in their pure form? 

 I often have these thoughts when any cherished novel finds it’s way to Hollywood and I will admit a slightly selfish part of me doesn’t want my favorite books to be shared with the whole world in an hour and a half blockbuster movie. I want it to remain precious and untainted, safe in the realm of books. Am I the only one who feels like this? Or do you have similar feelings of not wanting to let go of a beloved book?

 So back to One Day and the big question did I like it? Well if you’ve read my review you will know that I absolutely loved the book. I despaired then when I heard that David Nicholls had allowed it to be turned into a Hollywood movie, why O why ruin something so amazing. Something that in my opinion truly belonged in the written word?

 I’ve watched so many novels that I loved dearly be turned into movies and there aren’t many that I can say weren’t butchered. Off course there are many exceptions and on a positive note I will discuss them…but firstly how was One day? Well actually I have to say it really wasn’t too bad. Now I’m not declaring my love for the film or anything, give me the paper back any day of the week! However I managed to put aside much of what I will admit were my prejudices and actually quite enjoyed the film.

Not much has been tampered with, the writer stays pretty congruent to the actual novel. I always find that a successful film adaption relies on the integral fact that the adaption is either very similar to the book or wildly different. Anything in the middle just makes for a murky, hazy movie.

 But back to One Day, as I said the director stays pretty true to Nicholls’s original story and for that reason the result is rewarding. I can’t really think of any moments where I rolled my eyes at a wildly unrealistic instant or a scene when a beloved experience was inappropriately changed. For this reason though the film was slightly predictable, I know what am I moaning for right? And it’s not really a complaint, more just that I knew everything that was coming so I was more open to distraction whilst watching it.

 I’m pleased that the storyline wasn’t changed and for those that haven’t read the book I think they will have a more enjoyable experience; Seeing it for the first time as it were. For anyone who has read it though you might be feeling like me that the film was just a parallel and therefore there was nothing new or greatly exciting to be gained from the film.

 Again I’m being very critical and I am a huge book fan, not really a movie lover. After a first very critical viewing perhaps I will enjoy it more the second time?

So the really important question, what did everyone else think of the film? Have you read the book or was the movie your first experience of One Day? Did you enjoy it? Think that is was a fair and true adaption or do you have any criticism’s? Please do tell.

 But whilst I’ve probably being quite hard on movie adaption’s thus far I think it only fair to mention some movies where I think the transition was successfully accomplished.

Surprisingly, given that I love Ian McEwan as much as I do, I thought the movie Atonement was brilliant. It’s been quite sometime since I read or watched the book/movie so it’s tricky to say how well the original plot line was adhered too but I loved both. Off course they are different, each stirring diverse emotions within me. They had varied after tastes and were overall just completely different experiences. But I was pleasantly surprised and I will just as happily slip on the movie as I will read the book.

Again I surprise myself in saying that I still enjoyed the movie adaption of Never Let Me Go, and sacrilege, I actually watched the movie first, which by my own standards is a cardinal sin. I actually found thankfully that far from spoiling the book for me it actually made it a little easier to understand, and yes there are a few changes but the director put his own stamp on the film and that is what’s most important. It allowed the film to work in it’s own rights and meant that both film and book are rewarding and touching to either read or watch.

Now I’m not saying this next adaption was perfect but I thought the movie version of The Time Traveler’s wife was again quite a decent transition. None of the romance and heartbreak of the novel were missed from the movie and in many ways watching it on the big screen was a little less confusing than reading the book. But off course films are never the same as books and for me my heart will always lie with the book.

But I haven’t yet been totally converted to films and there are still a shocking amount of poor adaptations that I can find myself reeling at. For example The Northern Lights Trilogy, Philip Pullman you are by far one of my all time writers but why let Hollywood get their hands on these amazing works of fiction I will never know. And Daniel Craig playing Lord Asriel, well I just couldn’t stand it I’m afraid. I turned the movie of not long after it started, some things just don’t work and for me this was a clear case of why movie adaption’s should just sometimes not happen.

But instead of reeling about all of the adaption’s that I have hated I will end this latest musing with a slightly more positive note, I’m very excited and highly anticipating the up and coming production of Before I Go To Sleep which I actually think will make a brilliant film. I’m half way through the book at the moment and I believe it will make for an excellent movie. There’s something about thrillers which means they actually work, for me anyway, really well when taken from the written page to the big screen.

 Perhaps this is one time when Hollywood getting their mitts on a great book is a good thing? Special effects, dramatic climax’s, these are ingredients integral to a thriller and things that are usually done well in movies.

So what does everyone else? Do you agree with my thoughts on adaption’s or do you have a different take on them? Which one’s have worked for you and which one’s sadly didn’t?


7 thoughts on “Book to Film adaption’s – Do They Work?

  1. Ha love how you keep asking why the novelists let films be made (££££$$$$)
    I agree with you I quite enjoyed Time travellers wife the film, maybe because of Rachel McAdams. Have you read the book ‘The Notebook’ for me the recent boob in this area was ‘Lovely Bones’ which I hated, but loved the book. The crappest ever adaptations for me are Dracula (no decent film versions from a book I adore) Day of the Triffids (love the book) Farenheit 451 (great book) and the ones which did it well for me were Alfred Hitchcocks Rebecca, any Raymond Chandler novel made into Noir, and All Quiet on the Western Front which is an oldie. I think what works in books doesn’t always work in film. At least with a book-to-film you know it’s going to be half decent structure and script.

  2. Ha it’s years and years worth of built up indignation and disbelief.

    Yeah I thought they actually did a good job there, they kept quite true to the story but I guess it’s such an interesting story it’s bound to be appealing both on and off screen.

    I haven’t read The Notebook but I have seen the film, is the book better?

    I remember you saying about Lovely Bones, I didn’t care much for the film and made the silly assumption that I wouldn’t like the book until you recommended it, it’s now on my list of books to keep an eye out for.

    I had no idea there was an adaption of Rebecca, definitely need to see that. I haven’t read Dracula but heard the films weren’t amazing.

    I agree, sometimes these things just don’t translate. Have you read or seen One Day or do you have any plans too?

  3. Oh Lou! I’d forgotten you have so many books that I want to borrow! Reading you two discussing books is a nightmare – My book shelf it getting fuller and fuller because of you.

    I haven’t read or watched Lovely Bones – Isn’t the story very upsetting? It’s sitting on my shelf along with P.S. I Love You which I haven’t read either. I accidentally watched P.S. I Love You (not into Chick Flicks or Chick Lit, hence why it was an accident) but although I wanted to see how it ended I thought the book would be too sad to read. Have you read it?

    I also accidentally watched The Time Travellers Wife which did make me want to read the book. It’s on my list of titles to look out for at the charity shop.

    Dracula is on my TBR list. I never fancied reading Day of the Triffids because of the adaptions (perhaps I should reconsider?) I’ve never read Fahrenheit 451 and I thought I’d read Rebecca but I didn’t know Alfred Hitchcock made it into a film so maybe I have it confused with something else.

    I’m not really adding to the conversation am I?

    Alright, I’m very disappointed that they’ve cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher for Lee Child’s One Shot. There are several actors that could have filled the role better than Cruise. All the Lee Child fans who I’ve told about this were excited they were making it into a film, until I told them who was taking the lead. Now none of them want to see it.

    I like Neil Gaiman’s work (I started with his Graphic Novels with Dave McKean and progressed from there). I haven’t read Stardust but I loved the film. I could watch it every Christmas. I think they’re making American Gods into a movie too. Stardust worked but I’m not sure American Gods will. I look forward to being proved wrong.

    I also loved the book The Decent by Jeff Long. I haven’t watched the second film (and don’t intend to) but I did enjoy the first. That is one book that ‘inspired’ a film although the characters and scenario in the film don’t appear anywhere in the book. I recommend Jeff Long if you haven’t tried his work before, assuming you’re open to a bit a horror that is?

  4. Ha I know, this whole blog has trebled my TBR list. Anything you ever want to borrow just let me know.

    I haven’t read P.S. I love you, too be honest I’m not a huge chic lit fan. I did read one of her other novels The Gift and was pretty non plused by it. I have also heard that it’s bvery sad though. Lovely Bones is very sad but also the whole concept is very interesting and I think it would make a good book. Must get my hands on it.

    I wish I had a copy of The Time Traveler’s wife to lend you, it’s a really good book, thank go the movie adaption worked. I’d really like to watch Dracula too, and Rebecca, but there’s so many books there’s no time for films yet!

    I had no idea about Tom Cruise, O that’s a massive shame. I hate it when they use huge Hollywood stars, for me it detracts something away from the film., what do you think? I guess it’s like Anne Hathaway playing Clare in One Day, it just doesn’t seem right.

    I’ll confess I haad no idea that Stardust was a book and I actually can’t imagine it in that form. I do think somethings are better as films, but that is very rare! Like you said some books ‘inspire’ films.I haven’t heard of American God’s though, who is it by?

    And yes definitely up for horror, I never really read or watch it but there’s always room for more variety so I’ll keep an eye out for Long.

    Will you be watching One Day?

    • I might have Lovely Bones somewhere. I’ll have to dig it out so we can both read it.

      Neil Gaiman wrote both Stardust and American Gods. He’s a very popular author. I’ve read a few of his books but I can’t remember any titles off the top of my head. They are all a little quirky like Stardust, though I can’t imagine reading that book either.

      I don’t plan to watch One Day until I’ve read the book. One of my work friends is lending it to me when she finishes it. If it makes me want to watch it I’ll be able to tell you what I thought about Anne Hathaway. If I watch the film first I will visualise Hathaway in the role.

      I will try to track down my copy of The Decent. I had a pre-edition uncorrected bound proof. It was like a brick. Some of the people I lent it to loved it so much they each went out to buy their own copies so they could re-read it again and again. That’s always the sign of a good book.

      • Thanks that would be great. Hope it’s as good I expect it to be. High expectations can kill a book.

        I really can’t imagine Stardust being a book, I’m quite curious to try it now.

        I hope you like One Day, it’s a shame we couldn’t have done that for a book group but I think a few of us have already read it. I need to read more books by David Nicholls, have you read any of his other books? He really reminds me of Nick Hornby.

        That sounds like a good edition you have there, I love special editions : )

      • I haven’t read any books by David Nicholls yet. I’ll let you know how I get on.

        Neil Gaiman’s books are long… Great if you like it.

        Have you tracked down any cheaper copies of Annabel? £9 seems to be the average price. The paperback version isn’t due out until next year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s