Adaptation: Book to Film

Since I’m moving house on Friday, I decided to shuffle around regular programming and bring you my weekly blog post today instead.

I’m the type of person who prefers to read a book before seeing the film version, but that’s not always how it works out. I’m a big fan of book-film adaptation and since seeing The Lucky One last week, it got me thinking about adaptations. The discussion that follows is totally subjective; my own personal favourite adaptations—

Now many purists believe that no film adaptation can best a book but I beg to differ. I’ve seen many film versions of books I loved and found the film version so much better because the director was able to capture a nuance of the text visually, making more of what was only hinted at on paper. Without further ado, here are some of my favourites in no specific order.

1) Requiem for a Dream – originally a book by Hubert Selby Jr., director Darren Aronofsky created a masterpiece from text that lacked punctuation and aesthetic appeal. Aronofsky turned hard hitting, gritty writing into a work of art that is both profoundly disturbing and exquisite. I enjoyed the book (even though it’s difficult to read) and absolutely loved the film.

2) Prozac Nation – the autobriographical work by Elizabeth Wurtzel is tricky to get into, being about depression and the downward spiral. The film version, however, immediately hooks your sensitivties with a gut-wrenching portrayal of a young Harvard student on the brink of self-destruction. Again, I enjoyed the book but loved the film thanks mostly to Christina Ricci’s superb acting.

3) Stardust – I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. I enjoyed his fairytale story Stardust, but there was something lacking in his paperback rendition. That ‘something’ was added in spades in the film, which included wittier dialogue and a cross-dressing sky pirate. The characters, treated somewhat distantly in the text due to POV choice, really popped on screen, drawing you into their internal struggles. This seems a travesty but I’d almost recommend skipping the book and just seeing the film.

4) The Crow – I’m a huge fan of comics and graphic novels, eagerly awaiting the next installment in X-Men, Marvel superhero films and DC universe movies (Spiderman excluded – really? Another film? Move on already!) but one film stands head and shoulders above the rest. Originally drawn and written by James O’Barr, his graphic novel The Crow became an on-screen cult classic in 1994 with Brandon Lee as Eric Draven. Director Alex Proyas took a dark and violent story and turned it into a horror-romance, a remarkable feat. The film is as beautiful to the eyes as it is disturbing to the sensibilities.

Other adaptations that deserve a mention are:

HBO’s series adaptation of Evan Wright’s Generation Kill, the film adaptation of Gaiman’s Mirrormask and Coraline graphic novels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy of course and Atonement. There are a gazillion options but these are some of the ones that stuck in my memory. Now I have seen many films that I know are based on books without reading the books first (such as The Notebook and The Lucky One) and, although I enjoyed the films, I can’t comment on the adaptations thereof.

The one adaptation I am looking most forward to this year is Don Winslow’s Savages, made into a film by the fantastic Oliver Stone. In case you don’t know about it, read the book first (not for the faint of heart) then watch the trailer below, then go see the film!

So what’s your favourite book-film adaptation?

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