Those who have come to the pond here for a while would know I’m a Book to Movie person. If I know a film adaptation is coming out, I’d want to read the book first, as I’m always intrigued by the adaptation process. Maybe it’s the transposition of one art form into another that so fascinates me. Yes, you can say it’s a kind of theme and variation type of work.
But there are also times when I’m so captivated by a movie that, after watching it, I want to read the book on which it’s based. Thanks to Wes Anderson, I’m now reading Stefan Zweig.
Before watching The Grand Budapest Hotel last April, I had never heard of the Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer Stefan Zweig. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Zweig was one of the most famous and translated writers. And yes, here I am living under a Rock(ies), have never heard of the name until Wes Anderson’s confessional interviews, wherein he raved about how his (now) Oscar winning Budapest Hotel was influenced by the writings of Stefan Zweig. Also in the movie, there is the acknowledgement of Zweig as the source of inspiration as the film’s end credits begin to roll.
Here’s what’s interesting: Instead of adapting from one single work, Anderson created his Budapest Hotel sparked by the oeuvre of Zweig’s after he read his writings only a few years before. After watching the film, I’ve since read several of Zweig’s short stories, and a couple of novellas The Post Office Girl and Chess Story, and now continue to delve into more of his captivating, often bittersweet, stories. Watch for my article coming out in the April (Spring) issue of Shiny New Books on how Z inspired A.
So The Budapest is the most recent example of how a movie influences my reading. Over the years, there have been other ones. Here are some more:
12 Years A Slave (2013) – Steve McQueen’s artistic rendering of slavery may seem like a paradox, but acclaimed British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northup is what spurred me to read the original memoir. Both are excellent works.
3:10 to Yuma (2007) – Have you ever read a Western short story? Western as in uh… cowboy, gunslingers. This is one of the few Western work I’ve ever read. The intriguing moral dilemma the movie depicts and its poignant ending had driven me to look for the short story by Elmore Leonard as soon as I left the theatre.
Bleak House (2005) – The BBC TV mini-series with Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, Anna Maxwell Martin as Esther Summerson sealed the deal for me. The series also introduced me to the talented Carey Mulligan, her first role I believe. I turned to the 1,000 plus pages Dickens novel soon after the series finished. Because I’ve seen it first, it was a breezy read, almost.
Howards Ends (1992) – A cast with Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Vanessa Redgrave is not hard to move and entertain. And thanks to Merchant Ivory, the dynamic dual of producer/director, and their team writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, I devoured the humorous and equally entertaining E. M Forster novel after that.
Revolutionary Road (2008) – I was captivated by the movie at first. Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio had done a marvelous job in depicting the entrapment of suburban life. But only through reading Richard Yates’ book did I sense the even deeper psychological entanglement that I missed in the film.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) – I wrote in my book review, “This is one book that should be read after watching the film. Without visualizing what Jean-Dominique Bauby had gone through after his massive stroke, the reader simply could not empathize or appreciate enough of Bauby’s effort in ‘writing’ his memoir.” How? One blink at a time.
When Did You Last See Your Father (2007) – I watched the film twice at TIFF a few years back, Colin Firth as British writer Blake Morrison and Jim Broadbent as his overbearing and critical father dying of cancer. The life-long yearning of a son seeking his father’s approval is so sensitively portrayed. Reading Morrison’s memoir after only made me appreciate the film more.
How about you? Are there movies that have motivated you to go back to the source and read the book?
(CLICK ON the links in the titles to read my reviews.)