[Home] [Weblog] [The Bibliothecary] [Driving the Quill] [Library][Bookmarks]

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Chapter Seventy-One, in which are considered Books as Films



Woman sitting in easy chair beside fireplace reading book.

I bet Helena Bonham Carter would make a wonderful Helen McGill.

# # #

The Silent Partner and Your Bibliothecary have been spending several nights each week viewing films delivered by a prominent rental service that really doesn't charge late fees. We have experienced a smattering of everything, some good and some not. We have yet to identify a prominent pattern in our tastes.

As far as we can determine, about twenty percent of these films have come from novels. Perhaps our favorite was "The End of the Affair" of 1999. In some ways the 1955 version more tightly followed Graham Greene's novel, but it pales miserably beside the remake. The performance of both leads is brilliant, and the tone of the novel is far more successfully conveyed in this more recent version.

"Dangerous Liaisons" and "Valmont" hit the screens at nearly the same time, both based on Choderlos de Laclos' epistolary novel. Both are good productions, and each sheds a slightly different light on the story. The book, however, revealed the characters as more intriguing, more plotting, more devious than either screen version.

"Camille Claudel" was based on the biographical novel by Anne Delbée. The book does a good job of contrasting Claudel's work with that of Rodin, and leaves us with a profound sense of sadness. The movie covers her career, but only suggests how the rest of her life is spent, and therefore misses that sadness. However, the performance of Isabel Adjani is what we believe to be one of the greatest in cinematic history, and she gives true life to the artist that simply cannot come through the pages of a book.

"The Phantom of the Opera" was wonderful, and easily an improvement over Gaston Leroux's rather dreadful novel.

"The Name of the Rose" did not come close to the level of satisfaction of Umberto Eco's wonderfully detailed medieval novel.

So what makes a good film adaptation? What is your favorite movie version of a novel, and what is your least favorite? What book are you yearning to see brought to the big screen?


  1. Least favourite adaptation has to be Mansfield Park. Ugh!

  2. Reading is sacred, I rarely see films based on books. However, "I Capture the Castle" was a film that I thought better than the written word. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" film version was better than the book. Stephen Kings "The Shining", "Misery", "Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile" were all well done. I couldn't sit through "The Horse Whiperer" and the Nicholas Sparks books as well as the films are hokey as can be.
    John Irvings books have not made good film versions. I am intrigued by seeing the film version of Memoirs of a Geisha, but I guess I just prefer to read. Read ---read--- read!

  3. As a general rule I tend not to like the movie versions, and I'm not a big fan of costume dramas, anyway. However, Master & Commander was fabulous. The movie remained very true to the spirit & flavor of Patrick O'Brian's books, and included many verbatim quotes. A few scenes were invented, but when you're talking about a series of 20 books, one more made-up scene isn't very jarring. Not only is the movie completely true to the series' literary spirit, but (according to the DVD's special features) they made it as historically accurate as possible. The movie actually enhanced the books for me. Having seen it, I have a much clearer sense of what life was like aboard the dear old HMS Surprise. I wonder if other Patrick O'Brian fans -- or British Naval historians, for that matter -- would agree.