From Page to Screen
Life is better with a book; sinking into a different world, living the experiences with the characters—it’s a magical thing. But sometimes it’s great to be able to really kick back and relax with a film, especially since it’s a lot easier to share the movie-going experience with friends and loved ones.
Since the beginning of cinema, filmmakers have used books as their inspiration, sometimes creating exact copies from page to screen, and sometimes taking some fairly extreme liberties when it comes to the storyline of our much-loved stories. It’s always interesting to see a film based on a well-read book, but it’s equally intriguing to discover that a favourite film has its origins in an obscure paperback.
The age-old debate of whether it is better to read the book or see the film first still rages. The truth is, it depends. Sometimes reading the book first is an excellent idea; after all, there is only so much story a film can contain, being limited in its timings (how can a 400-page novel be squeezed into two hours of screen time?), so unless the film is split into parts, some things will need to be missed out. Knowing the book means you get an inside, deeper glimpse into the story. It makes it easier to understand. The same goes for characters; a great actor can bring life to a famous literary name, but it takes talent and time, and occasionally these things are lacking in a movie adaptation. If you’ve read the book you already know what the character is like, so you don’t need to rely on the actor drawing him or her for you.
There is another side to the argument. Seeing the movie before reading the book means you can enjoy the film with no spoilers, so it’s more suspenseful. You can also draw your own conclusions about plot and characters without having been influenced by the author. Seeing the film first also means you are less likely to be ‘disappointed’ or bored (disappointed because some scenes were missed out, perhaps even your favourite, or bored because every scene was put in so you know exactly what is going to happen next).
Whichever you prefer to do, there are some great book-to-movie adaptations out there that this wintery weather gives you the perfect excuse to snuggle up and read or watch.
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings is actually a trilogy, and a sequel to Tolkien’s 1937 novel, The Hobbit. So when filmmakers decided to create an adaptation, they too went for the trilogy idea. The books, and the films, are entitled The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. The films were made between 2001 and 2003 and star Elijah Wood as Bilbo Baggins and Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf.
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Perhaps the most famous series of children’s book ever created (although adults love it too), are the seven Harry Potter novels. They chart the life of a young wizard, Harry, and his friends, Hermione and Ron, as they begin their school days at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s not all fun and games, though, as there is an evil force (Voldemort) who wishes to destroy everything Harry holds dear. The films were a huge success. They star Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint in the three main roles, as well as a stellar cast surrounding them. The films were hugely anticipated, and did not disappoint.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Huge Hollywood blockbusters love a book. They love to take a book and turn it into something special. This was the case with The Hunger Games. Another trilogy, the books are called The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. It is the near future, and 12 children are called to take part in The Hunger Games, a TV show in which there is only one rule: kill or be killed. The films star Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, and have been a huge success. The third film, Mockingjay was split into two parts, and part two was just recently released in November 2015.
Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
Forrest Gump, the 1994 film starring Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise, is the kind of film that stays with you. Forrest’s childlike ways are anathema to the hustle and bustle of the adult world and, for two hours at least, it is possible to live in a simpler world. The ending is heartbreaking yet life affirming, and Forrest’s adventures are both amusing and fascinating. But did you know this film was a novel first? It was written in 1986 by Winston Groom and, just like the film, it charts the life of a childlike man from America’s deep south. However, unlike the film, the book sends Forrest off into outer space, and has him living with cannibals.
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Is Jaws the greatest horror movie of all time? It taps into our primal fear of the water, and of huge creatures with enormous teeth, so perhaps it is. Before being made into an award-winning and groundbreaking film in 1975 (directed by Stephen Spielberg), it was a book, which had been released in 1974. Whereas the film focuses almost entirely on the main story, the book has a number of subplots that give us more insight into the characters.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Published in 1969, The Godfather is a story of gangsters and mob bosses, murder and extortion, betrayal and love. It has all the makings of the perfect story, with the added benefit of it being based – at least in part – on the real lives of the ‘Five Families’ of the Mafia. The film came out in 1972, and starred Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in career defining roles. It is often cited as being amongst the most important films ever made.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
We’re all familiar with the musical adventures of Dorothy and her friends, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion. We’ve journeyed with them down the Yellow Brick Road to see the wizard countless times, and the girl in gingham (played by the exceptional Judy Garland) with her ruby slippers is an iconic image. The novel (entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum) came out 40 years before the film, in 1909. It’s a lifetime ago now, and when the book was published any ideas of creating a movie out of it, let alone one that is so well loved, in colour (for the most part), with songs that children still sing today was impossible. Thank goodness for progress!
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
The beauty, the style, and the glamour of this film is timeless. Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard bring Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak to exquisite and technicolour life. And of course, there’s Cat. No one can forget Cat. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a film to savour, and a novel to take your time over. Although they differ from one another in some respects, Holly Golightly is just as wonderful in both.
The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Many are surprised when they realise the wonderful film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins is based on a novella by horror author Stephen King. It just goes to show that some writers can’t be pigeon holed when it comes to genres since this is not a horror. The novella, part of the King collection entitled Different Seasons, was called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. It, and the film that came from it, is an in-depth study into human nature, and it is riveting.
The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey
The novel – and film (coming in 2016) – is set in a dystopian future in which most of the world has been destroyed by a terrifying fungal infection. For most, if they aren’t dead, they have been turned into zombies. There are, however, some survivors, and it is these survivors who try to ‘cure’ the problem. The easiest way to do this is to find out how the zombies work by literally getting inside them. But there is one, a small girl, who is more than she seems…
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
There have been countless adaptations of The Jungle Book over the years, and perhaps the most famous one is the 1967 Disney animation featuring songs such as the “Bear Necessities”. In 2016 a new version is set to hit the cinema screens, and it is a live action and CGI animated remake of the famous cartoon. It stars Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, and Scarlett Johansson amongst others, and is set to break box office records when it is released in April.
DID YOU KNOW?
A surprising number of blockbuster films began as novels, but did you know the following also started their way onto the big screen as books and stories?
The Wolf of Wall Street
Life of Pi
The Great Gatsby
Interview with the Vampire
Memoirs of a Geisha
I Am Legend
The Secret Life of Bees
World War Z