Lauren touched on the subject of film adaptations in her post-Oscars blog entry, but with The Lovely Bones opening in theatres this weekend, and with films such as Alice In Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes also coming to us on the big screen, I thought I’d throw in my two cents on the ongoing book vs. film adaptation debate.
Today’s NY Times review of The Lovely Bones was mixed. A.O. Scott writes that while Alice Sebold's novel showed audacity and effective art, the film shows less audacity and too much art. The film, he says, “skitters and lurches from set piece to the next” and never achieves the “delicate emotional coherence that would bring the story alive.” He then goes on to say that one of the problems with the film is that there are hard decisions to be made when trying to put Sebold’s work into a motion picture: What should be highlighted? What should be left out?
I’d like to know how filmmakers make such decisions. Obviously you can’t transfer every minute detail from a book to the screen--an audience doesn’t really want to stick around for more than a couple of hours to catch every last event that occurred in a book, but by having to be so selective in film adaptations, are we missing out on details that only reading books can bring us?
The film Adaptation comes to mind when I think about the great book vs. film adaptation debate. What was meant to be a film adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchard Thief, turned into a film about how to adapt a book into a screenplay--better yet, I think the film poses the question of whether or not it’s possible for a book to be adapted for film at all. The movie certainly makes you think whether or not this is possible. Sure, Adaptation is a wonderful film, but it’s a film about a man having writer’s block while trying to adapt the book to the big screen.
So, I wonder, are there some books that just can’t be made into films? Or, do you believe films ‘give life’ to books?