How do we feel about film adaptations of books, dear readers?
To be honest, I don’t have a personal consensus about this issue, so I doubt we as a group are going to come up with a unilateral stance. If Games of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that books can be adapted well…and that they can also get in the way of the books (figuratively and literally!) just as easily. On that note…stop toying with us, George R.R. Martin. We are suffering enough.
Anyways, there are precious few adaptations that I enjoyed more than the books–like The Painted Veil with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, as I think I’ve mentioned previously here. It’s difficult (as I know we’ve discussed here) to stuff a many-hundred page book full of literary symbolism, sensory detail, and emotional descriptions into a two-hour film. Yet books still form the basis of a significant number of films and tv shows, precisely because they come with so much insight, intrigue, and development pre-packaged. And, regardless of what Some People say about the death of literature, there is clearly a devoted following of literary fans who make these shows and films popular, and create the drive to make more.
So here, for your reading and viewing pleasure, are a few of the bookish film adaptations that have been discussed recently. Feel free to air your opinions on them here, and to come into the Library and check out the books before they hit the screens, so as to taunt your friends and family with non-spoilery spoiler hints for months to come!
Little Women: I love Little Women. My adoration of this book, of Louisa May Alcott, and of her family, has been well-documented. And for that reason, I personally cannot bear another adaptation of the book, even if it is PBS Masterpiece putting it all together. It’s like having a little bit of my soul taken out and manhandled by a major production company. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who are genuinely excited about this one, and I want there to be a really good adaptation on film, so I can only hope that this is the one that will prove that Little Women can be made into a meaningful, timely, and non-hokey production (if you’ve seen the BBC adaptation from the 1960’s, you know what hokey looks like). As the Masterpiece website notes, “Little Women is a truly universal coming of age story, as relevant and engaging today as it was when originally published in 1868″, and we need those messages of hope, of strength, of determination, and of everyday feminism and female support that the March sisters learn from each other during their coming-of-age. So please, please, please, Masterpiece, get this one right. On the plus side, Angela Lansbury, Tony Award winner and creator of my personal heroine Jessica Fletcher, is slated to play Aunt March. I will tune in for that, if for no other reason.
Alias Grace: No doubt the huge popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale, convinced the Powers That Be that adaptations of Margaret Atwood’s books were a good idea. No doubt Margaret Atwood’s stunning writing and incredible insight helped, as well. Though one of her lesser known works, Alias Grace is another fascinating (and feminist) book that centers on the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Canada. Two servants of the Kinnear household, Grace Marks and James McDermott, were convicted of the crime. McDermott was hanged and Marks was sentenced to life imprisonment. Atwood’s tale is told by the fictional Doctor Simon Jordan, who is ostensibly researching criminal behavior, but finds himself swept up into Marks’ story, and the paradox of the mild-mannered woman he knows, and the horrors she is supposed to have committed. This new adaptation of Alias Grace will air in Canada beginning in September and will be streamed to Netflix afterwards. For those eager for a taste of what’s to come, take a look at the trailer here.
Bird Box: One of the newer announcements regarding literary adaptations is the production of Josh Malerman’s dystopian horror novel Bird Box (soon to be starring Sandra Bullock) about a mother and her two small children must make their way down a river, blindfolded, lest they behold the dreadful entity that has destroyed everyone else around them. Malerman’s use of sensory details and creeping weirdness made for an absolutely immersive page-turner of a book…but it is, nevertheless, a book about about a world that’s been devastated by “The Problem”, and one glimpse of those…’Problems’ is enough to induce a deadly rage into anyone who sees them. Though there are flashbacks and traditional scenes, the most memorable, heart-pounding moments of this book come when the characters are blindfolded. So how is that going to translate onto a screen? Can it? We’ll see when Netflix brings this adaptation to life…
So what say you, dear readers? How does it feel to watch books on the screen? Are there any adaptations you’re eagerly awaiting?