Friday Face/Off: Book Adaptations
Tash: (STAY AWAY FROM ROALD DAHL)
Now. I know how this looks. Some of the most spectacular films of all time have been adaptations, and I know that. From Middle Earth to Hogwarts, from Charlie’s chocolate factory to Lyra’s Svalbard: it would be foolish to deny it and I’m not going to. My point, rather, is that in adapting a great book, the individualism inherent in enjoying a piece of writing is destroyed in order to create One Version – subsequently the only version that can exist in our minds. My issue with books adaptations is that they create a vacuum of imagination, a world where reading exists only to Play Out The Film Version in our own brains, and that seems rather sad.
John: (What are these “pages” of which you speak?)
*coughs* Sorry, got a bit choked up on all the dust and cobwebs that flew out your mouth just then. Seriously, Hodge, did the twentieth century pass you by? The individual experience of reading a book is of course a valid and important one, but films are a shared phenomenon we can discuss as equals. A good filmmaker can spark the imagination just as effectively as a powerful storyteller and reach a much wider audience to boot – just imagine how many millions picked up The Lord of the Rings for the first time because Peter Jackson helped them indirectly appreciate Tolkien’s vivid prose. Film adaptations aren’t vital to the wider understanding of novels, but they have a part to play.
Yeah, but the problem with “appealing to a wider audience” is that more often than not the story is compromised to meet the needs of the many. If you write a book, you’ve written it, well done you, there’s not really that much on the line, but making a film takes MONEY and HUMANS and BUILDING and so very many things that most of the time it REALLY REALLY NEEDS to succeed. Often to the detriment of the tale itself. There’s a reason that Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife has been pulled from production, and it’s because a mainstream audience can’t take his white-hot diatribe against the idea of an almighty creator. When a tale is diluted, and it so often is, why not leave it in its original state?
Of course there are books which suffer from their conversion to 2D (let’s leave 3D out of it), but I hardly think it’s worth writing off the whole industry. It was a mistake to dumb down Northern Lights, as demonstrated by the collapse of the fledgling franchise – His Dark Materials should have been filmed as they were written, as fundamentally adult books which were accessible to children rather than the other way around. One or two witless adaptations do not a case for the prosecution make.
Yes, fine, there have been good films created out of the literature pool – but the reason they’re great is because they started life as something already brilliant. Has a fantastic film adaptation ever been made of a supremely crap novel? Of course not. It implies that the original incarnation of the story –however wonderful – isn’t enough ; that author’s intention- to write a bloody book, a book that people will just bloody well read – is alright and everything, but really it’s a jumping off point for something better (read: louder). Why not just COME UP WITH SOME IDEAS FOR FILMS, and then make the films? Why do we want to keep our pool of ideas, of stories, as small as physically possible?
Creativity has never worked in isolation you maniac – it borrows, it steals, it improves and it messes with what is already there to further itself. You think we should stay away from myths because they were originally spoken rather than written down? So what, in your world a book is written, and it can never be touched? That’s the end of its evolution? Once these films come into being their source material is not destroyed, you know – all we can do is hope that a love of one will foster a love of the other.
This is just about Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, isn’t it?
GOLDEN EGGS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?