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?