Print vs. the Big Screen: How books translate into films

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I think we’ve all been there, excited to find that our cherished reading experiences are about to be turned into motion pictures. Over the years, I’ve learned to temper my enthusiasm, thanks to less than faithful reproductions.

There are many factors that contribute to the disappointment by fans of the written version. The time constraints of trying to capture the entirety of the story is probably the biggest hurdle film makers face. But there is also the “reimagining” by several minds—producers, directors, screen writers, studio execs, actors—that plays a big part in what’s lost in the translation.

When I look back over the years, I can think of several examples of films missing the mark of pleasing a large, expectant audience. “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden sticks out in my mind. Although I think great pains were taken to faithfully adapt the book to the screen—including gorgeous scenery, costumes, etc.—somehow the film lacked heart. What had been such a delightful and engrossing reading experience felt flat when viewed by eager fans, even with all the obvious care and thought that was put into bringing it to life. Those uninitiated to the story didn’t seem much impressed by it either.

One of the most anticipated adaptations was “The Da Vinci Code,” which proved to be another underwhelming experience for those who loved Dan Brown’s creation. “Water for Elephants” was a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I wasn’t alone. Yet the film, despite a lot of big name talent, failed to please viewers.

These are but a few of the numerous examples of less than successful leaps to the big screen. But I have also been pleasantly surprised to find favorites that have made the conversion without losing the integrity of the story. “The Sheltering Sky” by Paul Bowles is one example. I’ve seen the movie version twice and I loved it as much as I did the book.

After seeing and being spellbound by “The English Patient,” I often overheard groups of people who were extremely disappointed by the cinematic effort. I had felt the same way about “The Last of the Mohicans,” by James Fenimore Cooper. When I heard that it was being made into a movie, I thought it would be a good idea to read it first. I wonder if I would’ve liked the film better if I hadn’t.

I finally got over being irked by the disapproval of the screen version of “The English Patient” and decided to read the book myself. I have to say I liked both very much, but I certainly understood why those who’d read the novel first didn’t; they were two very different stories. This experience taught me lesson: sometimes it’s better to leave expectations at the theater entrance and view the tale with an unbiased attitude.

So, what are YOUR favorite picks and pans? Which movie versions of your beloved books delivered satisfying results? How many of the dozens of books that have been turned into movies this year alone have made your “must see” list? I guess we’re always looking to double our pleasure, and why not??

On the “Not Soon to be a Motion Picture” list, “Alligators in the Trees” by yours truly will be available for FREE downloading tomorrow and Monday. Check out this highly-unusual love triangle on the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/Alligators-in-t…

Until next time,
Cynthia

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