Phoebe Gomes , Friday 26 August 2011
Does transferring a story from page to screen remove our ability to use our imagination?
Many of the world’s most notable novels have been created into films, yet the question arises whether or not books should actually be made into films. I’m going to look at examples of films based on popular novels, some that are good and some that are not so good.
This is a prime example of why books should be made into films. The magic which we read on the page is brought dramatically to life with the stunning use of special effects and a first class cast. After the release of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ in 2001, the films were highly anticipated and became a cultural phenomenon. All of the films are accurate, even going down to some of the tiniest, but most poignant details.
Harper Lee’s novel focuses on the segregated attitude of the Mississippi in the 1930s. The story is told through the eyes of young Scout Finch, and this is beautifully displayed in the film, both with the narration and the convincing performance from Mary Badham as Scout. Lee’s book was written with a clear message and symbolism, and this is demonstrated in the film throughout, particularly by Gregory Peck’s Oscar Winning portrayal of Atticus Finch. The films Oscar-winning status is a clear indication of its success.
Roald Dahl’s novel is demonstrated in a comic, yet slightly sinister fashion in the 1971 musical. The performance by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is both convincing and mysterious but, it is the performance from the children which emphasise how well made and true to the book the film actually is. The 5 ‘winners’ of the golden tickets are portrayed in such a way it influences our opinion, for example, we all love Charlie Bucket and want to slap Veruca Salt. The film, like the book, is able to influence the viewer, just the way a film adaptation should.
‘There is a way to be good again’ Unfortunately, this is not the case for the 2007 film adaptation. Khaled Hosseini’s novel is a brutal, yet heart wrenching story of two best friends, growing up in Afghanistan, both challenged by social background and family bonds. However, the film fails to leave quite a lasting impression, except perhaps one of boredom. Many important details of the book are eradicated, such as the physical appearance of some characters, which actually helps solidify aspects of the story within the novel but leads to a less convincing performance on the screen. It is unfortunate for the book to be placed in a bad light due to a badly made film; this is a classic example of ‘read the book first!’
Many filmmakers make the mistake of thinking that having an ‘all-star cast’ immediately makes their film better. It doesn’t. Alice Sebold’s novel is a story of a young girl, Susie, who is murdered, and narrating from heaven. However, although the film features stars such as Mark Wahlburg and Susan Sarandon, it does not create the impact that the book does. Important details on how the murder has affected the family are not included, for example, Susie’s mother’s affair, which was not mentioned in the film at all. Although the novel is tricky to adapt to the screen, I think it is better to not make a film at all, then a version which is so adapted to the screen the storyline changes.
Apparently Dr Seuss was reluctant to license his books to films or toys, and after Howard’s ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ we now all know why. The book has an exaggerated tone to it, yet the film makes futile attempts to ‘glamourise’ it, ranging from Cindy Lou Who’s ridiculous haircut to the Grinch himself. The audience dislike the Grinch because Jim Carrey portrays him in such an irritating fashion, rather than because he steals all the presents. The film is merely a colourful haze of nonsense, which does not do Seuss’s classic justice.
So, should books really be made into films? Personally, I think that it really does depend on the film. After all, films have the ability to make novels visual and, to many people, seem real. However, good books should be respected, no film at all is better than a badly made film. What do you think?