Books on Film

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Reading this now, you may or may not be familiar with the current trends in technology. For instance do you know just how many various e-book-readers there are? I’m definitely someone who is never without a book on the go (I’m currently working my way simultaneously through 8), and I don’t know the answer to the above question. It might not be surprising then that the book I most recently finished reading was in the traditional paper format. I don’t think the name of the book is important for this blog, but I finished reading the book feeling that it had what I believe all good books have. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and it was the perfect resource to take with you wherever you travelled. The story was easy to follow, and the personalities of the main character and what happens to them seemed (largely) familiar in the contemporary society.

One thing that dawned on me as I read the book was the amount of artistic license used when it did inspire a film, which meant the book and film were clearly nothing like identical twins. I saw the film version of this book before I even read it, and I liked both. As the book was little like the film, it got me thinking generally about how books compare to their films. When films go on general release I think a certain ratio of audience members will be expecting something they can relate to 100% because they have read it first. The rest either don’t mind the changes, or they’re simply unaware-having not read the book- that such differences have successfully tip-toed their way into the film. I just thought it was interesting to look back at books I’ve read that became films, and to realise that most of these films are heavily based on the books. I actually think there are only about 5 cases where book and film had an altogether different structure; in one instance “film” means television series.

Before getting on to films which depart from their books, I’d like to list example of books I’ve read that became films. In so doing I hope to inspire some of you to research these films and books as something new, and decide whether you might like to read and watch them. The following are films which (from memory) followed the book’s structure and remained a true reflection of their literary selves. Harry Potter books/films (by J.K. Rowling), The Help (by Kathryn Stockett), Hideous Kinky (by Esther Freud), The Witches (by Roald Dahl), Of Mice and Men (by John Steinbeck) and An Angel for May (by Melvin Burgess).

To explore in detail why some films are strongly removed from their source would, I feel, take up more space than even the internet can provide. Though why films can be so different is definitely something which is perhaps worth thinking about. Indeed what you might think about are questions such as why film versions of such books as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Helen Fielding), Yes Man (Danny Wallace), About A Boy (Nick Hornby), Mary Poppins (P.L Travers) and the Mrs Browns Boys TV series (Brendan O’Carroll), envision new and plausible scenarios within the world that the author has created? In asking these questions I don’t aim to be analytical. Instead I aim to pose questions for readers to begin thinking about, should they feel inspired to, when they read other books and see their films.

In conclusion I personally believe the words sang in one of the original book-to-film ventures, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum- film 1939, has either intentionally or unintentionally remained in the hearts of any film-maker bringing a book to film. Indeed in a way I feel that each film company has worked to ‘follow the yellow brick road’, and on the whole this has yielded nothing but success for them.

By Amanda L

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4 thoughts on “Books on Film

  1. I enjoyed reading this Mandy, and it really made me think about why story lines may be altered in film, or remain true to the book, I’m a visual learner, and although once an avid reader of fiction books, now prefer film, but it does often stimulate my interest sufficiently to get the book and see how it compares. You give a real feeling of the pleasure you get from reading and film, thanks for being inspiring.
    Su

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    • Thank you Niccola for your comments and link. It gives such a boost to contributors to get feed back on their pieces. The Guardian article gave an extensive insight into the historical accuracy of film,,and how myths about significant events continue to be perpetuated because of them.
      Sue

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  2. This was really interesting. I was always struck when they made a film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which was already one of my favourite books, that the thing I loved most about the book – the fantastic imaginings of Chief Bromden, who tells the story, are almost completely missing from the film. I think something was lost there, with the switch of viewpoint from a patient, and it became quite a different piece – though still with a very good message.

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