Monday, April 27, 2009

A Plea Bargain or a 100 Year Sentence

This is in response to Miku's post about TV/Film and how Novels are adapted. It brought up the age old battle between Literature and Film. 

There are a lot of sour apples when it comes to book adaptations. The problem is that as a writer, you have to condense a 200-800+ page book down to about 145 pages (1 page = about 1 minute). So then it comes down to: what is the most integral part of the novel; which story lines/characters can be eliminated without affecting the story at large. It doesn't help that a lot of the films made are produced by studios that are just looking for the buck. Which means that the adaptation of Lolita turns it into more about the sex than the story we read. People as a whole don't want to pay $6-8 to see a beautifully terrifying film about a child kidnapper/rapist. However, if you make it about the sex, then that desire can be sold (in both positive and negative ways. People who go to films for a little T&A will enjoy it; and people that go to 'see' evil will enjoy turning Hum into a villain). 

It also depends on the director. As much as the director is an overblown status, if you're not a face with a name in some're going to be given bad scripts, poor acting, and high-concept editing. [Just like with all things, if a director writes their own work, it can be a rich or poor production.] 

Stanley Kubrick [Lolita, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut]
Paul Thomas Anderson [There Will Be Blood]
Joe Wright [Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, The Soloist]
Ang Lee [Brokeback Mountain, Taking Woodstock]
Tim Burton [Batman, Sleepy Hollow, Big Fish, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory]
Martin Scorsese [Raging Bull, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas]

-Now most of those names should be recognizable. And they have awards on their mantels. 

Tommy O'Haver [Ella Enchanted]
Hamilton Luske [Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland]
Andy Tennant [Ever After]

-Now most of those films should be recognizable. But are the directors?

Now you have to ask yourself how the first set of films compares to the last set? What is the quality of the adaptation? Is it the same? Is one better or worse than the other?

Another problem with Text to Visual is people's interpretation of the characters. Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's is the story of a 19yr old blonde....Audrey Hepburn was neither 19 or a blonde in the film. Also, the narrator in the novel is they don't jump out of a taxi at the end of the novel. 

And yet that film as probably sold memorabilia on an even level with Star Wars, despite what could be considered a poor 'adaptation.' 


It's an everlasting debate and struggle as long as the two forms of expression exist. There are several major factors that should be considered with book adaptations. 

Just a little fact: Short Stories are better feature length films. Paragraphs, pictures are better short films. So trying to get 800pgs into at most 2hrs means a lot will get lost in translation. 

Tom Perrotta is a novelist and screenwriter and spoke at UT last Monday. He said that as a screenwriter, he is able to write what he feels is the important parts of his novels. As an author, he can't be a decent screenwriter because he cannot include everything -- he is limited in film, and is boundless in novel. 


Two films that I recommend. Both for their absolute beauty and also for their adaptation.

Read Before I Saw:
Everything Is Illuminated
-The novel is two parts intertwined together. The movie is just one of those parts. 

Read Because I Saw: 
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
-The film shows what the book says -- thru the eyes of the author. It's all about seeing. 

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