Booking Through Thursday - The Celluloid Edition

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Interesting questions today.

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference?

I like to think about this, because one of our ideas for our book group next year is to do books and their movie counterparts. Earlier this year we read The Keys of the Kingdom and watched the old movie version and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am not a purist. Even with books that I love, I understand that not every moment in the book can make it onto the screen. I was not one of those people picking apart, say, the latest Lord of the Rings movies and saying, "Well, it was terrible! They didn't put XYZ in!" Also, my sisterfriend, who is a drama-type, has taught me a lot about the things that advance plot in a book that just can't happen that way in a movie, so I understand the process a lot better than I used to.

All that said, here are my answers. One of which I know will horrify Erik K, who thinks it is a terrible movie.

1. Best translation of a book to a movie in my mind is To Kill a Mockingbird (This is where Erik screams "No! A thousand times NO!") But I love the book (it's one of my all time favorites) and I think the vision of the movie was dead on. The scene of Scout running in the ham costume--exactly as I had imagined it.

2. Worst translation? The Shining. I hate that movie with a passion that is unseemly. Jack Nicholson was EXACTLY WRONG for the part he played. It MIGHT be a good movie, taken on its own. But as an adaptation of the book? It was disastrous. If I had been "little Stevie King" (as Smock so often calls him), I would have burned down the director and producer's houses and moved on to Nicholson's house just for good measure. Yeah, I hate it that much. And I thought the book was one of the scariest things I had ever read.

3. Usually I read the book before I see the movie, if I have any interest in the book at all. I'd rather have my own ideas before I see the movie. Even if I see the movie first, I usually like the book better. If there is good source material at all, the book just gives a fuller interpretation. But movies are more constrained. Look at it this way, Kristin Lavransdatter can go on for three books. If they made a movie, they'd have to leave out big old chunks of it. The movie might be good on its own terms. I might love it and think it grand. But the books. Well, there is just more to them.

And there you have it. What say you?


You know, I completely agree with you about "The Shining." That movie was such a big disappointment to me. Nicholson camped things up way too much, and they never should have killed off the black caretaker guy. When I saw the movie, I just about stood up in the theater and shouted "Nooooooo!" when that character died. It was so wrong.

I think best translation was Gone with the Wind. Of course, I saw the movie before I read the book... but they took a lot of material and distilled it into a solid work. If GWTW hadn't been tackled until the '70's or '80's it would probably have been done as a mini-series, just to cram everything in.

The worst? Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast with Champions. A strange, vulgar yet thoroughly delightful book was made into a movie that made no sense at all and bore no resemblance to the book at all. I had the feeling that the ripped-off the title and stuck it on some chaotic piece of trash...

I forgot to mention how much I agree with you about The Shining. That was one of the few books that really made me scared...I read when I had insomnia the hot summer when I was expecting baby #2, Fran. In bed, next to husband, with a lot of lights on. (And we wondered why Fran arrived with curly hair!!!)

The Count of Monte Cristo. Great book. The movie really messed up the story. On its own right, it isn't a bad movie, but it lost the heart of the story.

Brideshead Revisited was done in a mini series that was superb. Almost word for word from the book, and so well done, it seemed as if the movie makers crawled into my head before making it. Delish.

all of my wittle stevie's books are scary. and, not one of the king's books has been well translated. not a one. but, may i just say that jack nicholson melts my butter and leave it at that?

Bernard Malamud's The Fixer



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This page contains a single entry by MamaT published on July 12, 2007 7:55 AM.

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