Saturday, August 06, 2005

Adapted from....

Whenever I see this in a movie I usually give up all hope that the movie will be faithful to the original story. Story writing unlike movie making is a solitary work, except in certain cases like the Brothers Grimm and in comic books when it becomes a collaborative effort, unlike a movie, which is a product of the ensemble, a group effort.

There are times of course when a movie adaptation works. This is clearly seen in David Lean's movie "Bridge on the River Kwai". The movie was adapted from the novel of Pierre Boulle. Lean and his cohorts struggles and achieved to bring to film the external and internal conflicts that affect men in time of war under the shadow of a bridge being constructed on the river Kwai. At the end the piece de resistance of the movie was the blowing up of the bridge, a event that never happened in the novel. Still though Boulle was not distraught he even said he would have wanted to blow the bridge up anyway. The movie went on to critical aclaim and has become a classic in the triumph of collaborative efforts. Boulle thrived on later wrote the story of Planet of the Apes.

Then there are times when the movie ensembles try to be faithful but ends up shooting its own foot. The usual comment regarding this type of movie is that it was dragging, boring and lacks panache.

Then there are of course adaptations that somehow manage to scupper the movie on its own. Changes are made, stories are altered, and characters are added because it will do good, according to the producers and other people from the movie outfit. Falling into the trap of marketability and political correctness. And then there is the danger of yes men. Succesful film producers after a degree of success become surrounded by assistants and adivisers who seem to only see and say things in the affirmative.

Here are some movies adapted from books and stories that were emasculated by deviations from the original story:

Animal Farm
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Howard the Duck

In contrast some succesful movie adaptations aside from The Bridge on the River Kwai:

The Godfather
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Felllowship of the Rings
Sin City
Dangerous Liasons

Film making like writing the tale is a form of storytelling. Of course the method of developing a story in a short story and a novel is difference and the number of people in creation is geometrically great. However, it makes no sense to depart from the storyline if it mucks up the story. Even if you place special effects and thrilling endings it will do nothing if through your changes the story gets mangled.

I think it pays not to look down on your audience.


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