From Book to Silver Screen

The much-anticipated film adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood received mixed reactions this month from cinema goers. But what makes a good film adaptation and why? The films that survived the journey from bookshelf to the big screen and those that simply lost the plot…

The 39 Steps (1935) The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (pictured above)

Alfred Hitchcock may have reworked the plot a little introducing characters and scenes not in the original book, but it only served for better cinematography. Such is Hitchcock’s power that this version is better-known compared to Buchan’s original tale. Verdict: A Hitchcock Classic

Thirst (2010) Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola 

A hundred year old little known French novel transformed to the big screen by a South Korean master of horror. This has to be the least likely of adaptations. Written nearly 150 years ago, Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin is dark, creepy, and quintessentially French. To see it transformed against a Korean backdrop is interesting in itself. But director Park Chan-Wook turns the main character into a priest battling with a thirst for blood adding another layer to this extreme but wonderfully executed movie. Verdict: Park Chan-Wook has so far never made a bad film

No Country For Old Men (2007) No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

The Coen Brothers debut film Blood Simple hinted at what could be achieved were they to get hold of a McCarthy novel. In effect the film serves as an homage to the author offering no mercy as McCarthy’s gritty realism and unapologetic violence is solemnly brought to life on the big screen. Verdict:A marriage made in southern gothic paradise, if such a place exists

Island of Lost Souls (1933) The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G Wells 

It stars Bela Lugosi; that may be all you need to know. If not, the film was refused a certificate three times, but is now a treasured horror classic. Lugosi’s moving comment “Are we not men?” has often been copied but never bettered. Verdict: Great performances from Bela Lugosi and Charles Laughton

Village of the Damned (1960) The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

Many remakes have been attempted but none has so far matched the quality of this film. The final shot with the glowing eyes of the children against the background of a burning building defines the film. Never have little blond children left you feeling so ill at ease. Verdict:It is faithful to the book

High Fidelity (2000) High Fidelity by Nick Hornby 

Many felt it was a sacrilege to uproot the humble North London setting of the novel to Chicago. The injustice I hear you cry. What was so great about Chicago anyway? It gave the British director Stephen Frears a chance to be faithful to the text’s universal story of commitment rather than producing a film “tribute” to London. It is also John Cusack and Jack Black’s best performance. Verdict:Amazing soundtrack, good lead actor

V for Vendetta (2006) V for Vendetta by Alan Moore 

It stars Natalie Portman so what could possibly go wrong? Its main problem was the attempt to adapt a political graphic novel to a film for mainstream audiences. The words political, controversial and independent do not complement blockbuster and Hollywood.  Verdict: Wrong target audience

The Box (2009) Button, Button by Richard Matheson

It’s by Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, it stars Cameron Diaz so why was it so frustratingly awful? Extending a short story into a 115 minute feature film was the first thing. Adding ludicrous plot lines of aliens as god, hotel room floodings, bizarre supernatural fountains were the final nails in the coffin. Many great films originate from the smallest of texts, for example The Curious case of Benjamin Button, but unfortunately it takes a director with great imagination and a little restrain to make them work. VerdictUnnecessary plot lines

The Tempest (2011) The Tempest by William Shakespeare

It’s often hard to fail with a Shakespearean adaptation, just look at Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. But somehow Julie Taymor’s Tempest managed to do just that. To put it simply its bonkers and ill executed. Verdict: Too many special effects

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (TBA) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, and Leonardo DiCaprio are reported to be on board. Lets just hope it doesn’t include Hollywood tick boxes of gimmicky special effects, overpaid actors producing lacklustre performances, and unexplained sex scenes introduced for good measure.

But the ones so brilliant and well-known it seemed pointless to include are obviously Francis Ford Capola’s Bram’s Stoker’s Dracula, Blake Edward’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

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