This blog may be a bit controversial considering it will be going our to hoards of all y’all book lovers, but has anyone ever considered that sometimes… SOMETIMES… the film is better than the book?
I went to see the new Les Miserables film this weekend, and I LOVED it. I’m a huge, huge fan of the stage musical, and so I was expecting to be a little under-whelmed in comparison, but I can safely say it’s just as good – and Anne Hathaway’s performance of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ trumps anything I’ve seen on stage, just based on sheer emotional intensity. When I was 15, my school play for that year was Les Mis. I was cast as ‘Prostitute 3’ and ‘Grantaire’ (one of the students – the one that’s always drinking), and this sparked a huge obsession with everything Les Miserables related. Naturally, this lead me to try and read the original Victor Hugo book, and wow, was I let down. It’s long – REALLY long – and un-bel-iev-ab-ly slow. There are a million characters and subplots that do nothing except gum up the narrative, and worse, there is no singing! Also my two favourite characters (Enjolras and Eponine) are barely featured – but hey, there is a 30 page description of the Paris sewer system, so it’s not all lose-lose. I have no qualms in saying that not only is the stage and film adaptation better than the book, the online fan-fiction is a MILLION times better than the book. If not a little weird in places.
So, I’ve been thinking about a few more cases where (I think) the adaptation beats the original. Here’s my top three:
1) Apocalypse Now (adapted from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad)
A school book I LOATHED due to its horrendous racism and general sucky colonialist excuse-ism. I know it’s of its time, but I don’t have to like it. Pace is again an issue here, and not even the beautiful new Penguin Classics cover can convince me to give this another go. The film, however, is one of my perennial favourites.
2) The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
God I’ve tried to like this book. It should be so up my street – parties, glamour, romance, deceit, – but somehow, I prefer to see Robert Redford act out all of these things rather than have boring old Nick whinge on about how awful his fabulous lifestyle is. I’ll be very interested to see what the new adaptation is like too.
3) The Crimson Petal and The White – Michel Faber
This is a bit of a fib, as I actually also love the book, but the BBC’s recent adaptation was just stunning. It was so well done, trimming fat where fat needed trimming, without ever losing any of the story’s power, detail or momentum. I was personally VERY glad they chose to remove some of the book’s more shocking scenes, as there is definitely some things I’m happy to leave to my imagination.
4) Any and All James Bond Films – Ian Fleming
Has anyone ever read the books? Could they really be better than the movies??
And how about you — have you ever found yourself aghast after seeing a movie adaptation of a novel, either because you loved it so much or hated it completely?