For an update of this post, CLICK HERE to Great Film Expectations.
What makes a book movie material? I’m not thinking of the plot-driven page turners. I mean literary fiction, albeit the term is open to debate. Anyway, what baffles me is, how do filmmakers determine whether a book is good for a movie adaptation? Just let me give a few examples.
The English Patient. Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize winning novel that reads like poetry and leaves me swirling in nostalgic daze. When Anthony Minghella finished reading it in one sitting late one night, he knew right away that he must make the movie. Well, he did and won 9 Oscars for his film. But for another equally poetic work that I’ve enjoyed, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, its movie adaptation just didn’t work that well for me.
I can name many others. Muriel Barbery’s philosophical novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog stirred up deep resonance in me, but its movie adaptation Le Hérisson failed to produce such impact. Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day delves into the internal worlds of the two main characters, and is turned into film effectively, thanks to the fine performance of the actors, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Ishiguro’s more recent work, Never Let Me Go is both cerebral and emotionally charged, it too enjoys a good film transposition.
Or, how about short stories like Alice Munro‘s “The Bear Came Over The Mountain”, about an elderly couple dealing with the wife’s Alzheimer’s. When 28 year-old Sarah Polley finished reading the short story on the plane, she decided she would adapt it into film and who she would get to play the main character. The result is Polley’s directorial debut, the Oscar nominated film Away From Her, with Julie Christie getting a nom for Best Actress and Sarah Polley for Best Adapted Screenplay.
I’ve learned to appreciate books and movies as two distinct art forms. While I used to delve into the ‘loyalty’ issue, how close the film is to its source material, now I’m more accepting to new interpretations and diverse visual representations as long as the work holds up to its artistic values. But one thing still baffles me: How does a filmmaker decide whether a book is movie material?
The following are my recent findings on some literary works that are or will be adapted into films (ie, movie rights sold). On the top of the list, generating a lot of buzz these days is Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot. Now, it’s on my TBR list, as I’m still no. 213 in the hold lineup at my local library. But for those of you who have read the book, what do you say? Do you think the book makes good movie material? And the most intriguing for me, as always, how do you transpose philosophical ruminations into a visual medium? How do you dramatize intellectual angst?
Here’s Ripple Effects generated Upcoming Books Into Movies — List 3. If you’ve missed List 1 and List 2, just click on the links. Some of the works mentioned on those previous lists have already been shown on screen. Arti will continue to furnish you with updated info on future books into films. And all ye book group members, here are your 2012 suggestions:
Upcoming Books Into Movies — List 3
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2015, Scott Rudin producer, who will also bring you Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections in 2013. Impressive record as a producer of modern literary works into films: Revolutionary Road, Doubt, No Country for Old Men, True Grit… and soon Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud (Keira Knightly, Richard Gere, Eric Bana, Emma Thompson, Rachel McAdams will be directed by Scott Cooper, who did Crazy Heart, 2009)
Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson (Ridley Scott has got the film rights, and it’s going to be “a blend of the popular and the literary.” What’s popular may well be the subject matter these days, memory and the loss of it.)
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (2012, A Musical in “good old-fashioned 2D”, directed by Tom Hooper of The King’s Speech. Anne Hathaway, Huge Jackman, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush. Sorry, no Colin Firth singing here.)
Runaway by Alice Munro (short story, screenplay by Jane Campion. Like I said earlier in this post, a short story can be turned into a deep feature film. I await this one from Campion, who won a screenwriting Oscar as well as the Palme d’Or for her 1994 film The Piano. Her more recent Bright Star on the poet John Keats reaffirms her literary style in the visual medium.)
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Photo Source: Films, Wikimedia Commons, Books, Arti’s file.