Recently The Nile launched its Movies and Music departments, so Jordan and I thought a post about our favourite book to film adaptations might be in order. The adaptation is a tricky undertaking for filmmakers; on the one hand you’ve got a legion of loyal book fans desperate to see their beloved story told on the big screen. On the other hand, you’ve got a legion of loyal book fans willing to put you in intensive care if your version isn’t to their liking.
Lists of the best book to film adaptations are filled with some obvious picks: Dr Zhivago, The Big Sleep, To Kill a Mocknigbird and The Remains of the Day. Some of our picks will never make these ‘best of’ lists, but we love them just the same.
So here they are, some of our favourite book to film adaptations:
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather: I only found out recently that one of the greatest films ever made was a book first. Sorry, Mario Puzo! The story of the inner machinations of a powerful Sicilian-American mafia clan is compelling from start to finish. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino are electrifying, the tense and moody atmosphere is persistent throughout, and I maintain that the scene with the horses head is the biggest (and grossest) practical joke in history.
The Three Musketeers (1993).
Please note that I said ‘favourite’ film adaptation and not ‘highest quality’. The 1993 version of the classic French tale by Alexandre Dumas starring Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Chris O’Donnell turns out to be a catastrophic triumvirate of 90s heartthrobs. Though it does follow the events of the book it feels as authentic as a Thai bought Rolex. From the hammy acting to the American accents (Kiefer just ends up sounding like a pirate) and some of the most delightfully cheesy dialogue ever written, it’s so bad that it’s good.
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
From the ridiculous to the sublime. Emma Thompson won the Oscar for adapting Jane Austen’s story of the Dashwood sisters, and she gets extra points because the book is arguably the dullest Austen wrote. Thompson also stars in the film, which is faithful to the book but perfectly weaves in moments of creative license that even diehard fans (yes, me) couldn’t argue against. With the added bonuses of Alan Rickman being awesome and Hugh Grant doing what Hugh Grant does best by being a useless but endearing fop.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange is, in my opinion, markedly different to the text in which it’s based – but by taking what you might call ‘aesthetic liberties’ with Burgess’ novel, Kubrik produced one of the most honest and faithful adaptations ever to grace the screen. It just goes to show you that capturing the essence of a book is not about trying to precisely reproduce the text in a visual medium, but adapting it, changing it and situating it.
I chose this particular example due to the fact that I did not nearly like the book as much as I did the film – largely due to Jack Nicholson’s performance as Randal Patrick McMurphy. In the novel, the character is unquestionably sane. In the film, you are never quite sure.
Soylent Green (1973)
Yes, Soylent Green is based on a book. Specifically, Harry Harrison’s Make Room Make Room. But while the Charlton Heston movie mightn’t have been particularly faithful (or good for that matter) I’ve decided to include it because of the timeless/awesome changes they did make. In the novel, the starving masses are fed mostly with ersatz foodstuffs made of soy/lentil mix – hence ‘soylent’. In the film, for some reason, soylent green IS PEOPLE. How cool is that?
So there’s our picks. I’ll leave you with a video of one of the original film trailers for The Three Musketeers so that you can bask in some of its cheesiness. Once you’ve done that, tell us: what are your favourite or least favourite book to film adaptations?
Enjoy your weekend!