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What makes for a better film adaptation: a very prescriptive novel or one with more latitude for the screenwriter/director?

(6 Posts)
JedRambosteen Sun 07-Aug-16 19:19:14

DH and I were discussing this earlier over lunch, debating what style of writing/novel makes for the best film adaptations? We were talking about how some authors are really detailed in their descriptive writing, so most readers will form a similar mental picture of the key characters and scenes. Other authors focus more on character, mood and the feeling of the setting, which gives a director more latitude. What makes for a good adaptation? I thought the Recent 'Far from the Madding Crowd' with Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenert was good, but Michael Sheen was too young and attractive for his role IMO. Stardust was great and captured the mood of the book brilliantly. I am sure I can think of other examples in due course. Anyone else?

Annabel11 Tue 09-Aug-16 10:25:33

I'd say it's far more important what the screenwriter does than what work the film is based on.

logosthecat Tue 09-Aug-16 12:57:44

I think it's about having an interesting take on the book. Any film version is always going to offer a particular "reading" (there's no such thing as a neutral interpretation - I'm very suspicious of the idea of 'authentic' readings), so having something you actually want to say is important.

So, to take a really well-known, popular example: for me personally, the third Harry Potter film is the best of the series, because I think it actually offers something intelligent that is 'extra': a meditation on identity and becoming a teenager that is beautifully and thoughtfully shot. Mike Newell's film was fun and well-paced, but I didn't feel like he brought as much to the table. David Yates's are just like extended MTV ads, and Chris Columbus's offerings are not even worthy of a mention. grin

JedRambosteen Tue 09-Aug-16 18:25:41

Some really interesting takes on this. This:

I think it's about having an interesting take on the book.

got me thinking about how the adaptation is anchored to a point in time and the mores of the day. The Connery-era Bond movies are pretty troubling from a feminist perspective, full of rampant sexism and coercive behaviour by Bond. The newer ones are somewhat better. I guess that's why things like Poldark bear remaking, as they reflect different priorities and culture. There are some classics which have been remade again and again. It would be interesting to line them up to compare & contrast.

logosthecat Wed 10-Aug-16 09:18:19

Yes, exactly - there is no 'timeless' art in that sense, it all comes out of a particular (and very material) context.

Interesting at how many levels that works: some of it is unconscious (things that are accepted as simply 'natural' assumptions anyone would make and seem 'invisible' as choices, but later get challenged as contingent and questionable), some of it is about deliberate choices to read a text in a certain way. Sometimes it's a bit of both - I suspect Connery-era Bond sexism is partly a mix of a naturalised assumption that women are weaker and less able, and partly a deliberate use of that to make the male protagonist appear 'sexier' by the mores of the time.

JedRambosteen Wed 10-Aug-16 19:30:54

It's funny though, because Connery-era Bond is grim seen through modern eyes.

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