The Film is never as good as the Book!
About a month or so before Christmas I joined a Stephen King Group on Facebook as, funnily enough, I am a fan of his writing, and have been since I was a teenager. It is a decent and fun group but something I have noticed, in the short time I have been a member, is the regular repetition of many similar discussions. Of course, this is to be expected with so many members and constant posts; topics come and go rapidly – blink and you’ll miss them!
However, one that keeps bugging me is a discussion about the relative merits of the adaptations of his books to films. Most notably there is a regular outpouring of anger against The Shining (1980) whenever the subject of the book comes up. The general consensus among the participants is that the film is crap simply because it does not closely match the content of the book.
This is a fair criticism of the majority of book to film adaptations; there just isn’t the space to fit everything from a lengthy novel into a film. The adaptation of The Shining has a fairly generous running length of 2 hours and 26 minutes, but that still isn’t enough time to fit everything from a 512 page novel onto celluloid. Why else would they make a mini-series of The Shining (1997) years later? (Note to self: I must get around to watching the mini-series to compare and contrast all three.) I appreciate there were well-documented disagreements between Kubrick and King as to what the film should look like, and you were probably never going to get a word for word adaptation from Kubrick, but does that make the film rubbish?
No of course not, it just makes it different.
Part of my inspiration for this post was a recent guest post from Yvetta Dourin at Lucy V Hay’s author site exploring the differences between the Hunger Games (from 2012) films and books and why, despite those differences, both mediums work (go and read Yvetts’s post and check out Lucy’s site for other book vs film comparisons). There perhaps aren’t as many fundamental changes between the Hunger Games books and films as there are in The Shining but the principle is the same; it is hard to fit every word of a novel onto the cinema screen, especially when so much of a novel relates the inner workings of the characters’ minds, their thoughts and feelings, something that it is much harder to do in a screenplay when everything needs to be visual.
However, what you can do is use the strengths of either media to get the themes and messages across to the audience. The Shining film and book may be very different, but the themes of mental health, alcoholism, parenthood etc etc are present in both. I have not read the Hunger Games novels, but I suspect the same can be said for them. Have a think about some of your favourite adaptations, and I bet there is a fairly robust pattern?
I recently finished reading the wonderful Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I picked up just after seeing the film. I knew there would be changes and, without going into too much detail and avoiding spoilers, there are some significant differences, especially around the end of the story – the book and film are vastly different.
The themes of loneliness, isolation and being “different” are prevalent in both and, surprise surprise, I enjoyed them both. They can exist in the same world and both be great stories and, if you don’t like one of them, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) affect your enjoyment of the other. The are just two ways of telling the same story. If you think about it, haven’t the classic folk stories that have been passed down from generation to generation changed over the years, but still retained their message? Fairy tales come in many different versions, but the messages are often the same. Stories are retold and interpreted over and over again, so why not expect the same when a book is adapted into a film? It is simply another telling or reinterpretation of the same story.
One of the definitions of “ADAPTATION” in the dictionary (admittedly in relation to biology) is:
the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.
Films and Books are simply different environments for the same story to be told. The two mediums are very different and have their advantages and disadvantages over each other, but this does not make them mutually exclusive to your enjoyment. Where a novel can be very much internal and describe the invisible emotions that lie within a character’s mind, a film is much more external and visual; by their very nature, they will have to have differences. I could imagine that a stage adaptation of our favourite books and films would be very different again.
Yvetta comes to a similar conclusion in her excellent article. You will no doubt like one over the other, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy both. Don’t narrow your view, enjoy them all and don’t assume something will be crap just because it is an adaptation; things just aren’t that black and white. I think I preferred the book to the film in the case of Miss Peregrine, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them both immensely.
Stories are stories, we love telling them and having them told to us.
- Do you feel that film adaptations of books are always rubbish?
- Is there a particularly adaptation that makes you angry about the way a favourite book was treated?
Posted on January 25, 2017, in Films, theme, Uncategorized and tagged adpatation, books, miss peregrine's home for peculiar children, miss peregrine. peculiar children, novels, stanley kubrick, stephen king, the shining. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.