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Pilgrim

Quel dommage!

Hello …

What are your reactions to movie-adaptations of books you have read – and sometimes loved?  Comparisons are odious, they say, but is there anyone who will not compare book and film in these cases?

I know one can always simply not visit the cinema or the DVD store if apprehensive about what has been done to a favourite novel.  But, being human, our curiosity frequently overcomes discretion.

I recently watched the movie (musical ?) version of Les Misérables, and what a wretched business was both the movie and the watching of it.  Surely the most toneless, tuneless, inappropriate collection of voices ever assembled in one place.

I have a special affection for French movies and was, as a result, making comparisons between this concoction and another recently viewed version with Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich.  Quel dommage!

Mind you, there are so many awful screenplays abroad these days that perhaps producers turn in desperation to established and transcendent works.

Perhaps, if I try hard enough, discretion will overcome curiosity in future.

Regards,

Pilgrim.
TheRejectAmidHair

I wrote on this theme quite recently on my blog. (See here.)

When one is making a film - or a stage adaptation, or a television series, or an opera - from a novel, then, effectively, one is asking the novel as a starting point to create a new work. However, if that new work falls far short of the original on which it is based, then one can't help but notice.

And when the film-makers (or scriptwriters, or whoever) go around saying silly things about the original - usually along the lines of "updating" the original, or presenting the original for "a modern audience", as if to say that the original may have been good enough for its times but we are all so much more sophisticated these days - then they open themselves to well-deserved ridicule.
Apple

I am a bit OCD when it comes to screen adaptations of my favourite books, I drive my husband mad with my incessant commentry  throughout the film of "its not like that in the book" "that bits not right" etc.

I have said this before on other threads but I like my adapations to be faithful, and changes for the sake of it irritate me.
Caro

I love seeing movies of books I have read (though not so much vice versa), but I don't think it's a good idea to watch a movie of a book you love and know very well.  Movies are very different from books - the book I am reading at the moment will take me, I suppose, about 20 hours to read, but it would be filmed in two.  And it couldn't really be filmed the way it is written, one chapter from one character, the next from another and they alternate throughout the book exactly like that.

As for Les Miserables, the musical has been highly praised so presumably it works on its own terms, if you are not comparing it completely with the book or with straight film.

I see a review of the latest Anna Karenina.  It said the film succeeds because of Tom Stoppard's 'brilliant conceit that lets this film soar where other Anna Kareninas have trudged...How can you transplant the soul of such a vast book to a new medium.  You can't.  So instead, borrow some fizz from the adaptation process itself, by flipping between tow different kinds of adaptations: film a theatrical staging of the story, which keeps bursting out of its frame and turning into full-fledged cinema.  It seems an unlikely idea on the face of it, but just watch Stoppard dance.  He finesses the crushing compresion required to fit Tolstoy to the screen, so that he gains something as precious as what he has to sacrifice: the film feels fresh and alive, and at every turn it has the capacity to surprise."

The reviewer didn't think much of Keira Knightley ("no Garbo: I have never seen her in a film without pining for a different casting decision") but said the actors round her are so good that her being just adequate is enough.  

It doesn't sound as if was an exact portrayal of the book, but it does sound a successful and enjoyable one.
TheRejectAmidHair

I haven't seen the latest screen adaptation of Anna Karenina, but this article, written by someone who obviously loves and understands the novel, makes me want to:

http://www.themillions.com/2013/0...and-the-critics-got-it-wrong.html
Caro

That was a great review, Himadri, thanks.  He seemed to put into words my feelings about Anna which I wasn't able to do so well.  And about her husband who I felt was rather hard done by, losing his wife and having everyone think he was emotionally cold, and trying to protect his son.  

I don't quite understand exactly how this movie portrays events, but it would be interesting to see it.  Movies, at least here though, are so expensive we tend to wait for them on DVD or television.  I think Anna K would be best seen on a large screen though - at home seems too intimate a surrounding for such a sweeping and strong picture.
Hector

Thanks for that Himadri. I had avoided the film having read many of the reviews that the writer disagrees with. Perhaps I'll give it a go one day although can't see myself rushing to watch it. The book really is a wonderful.
TheRejectAmidHair

I haven’t seen the film either - mainly because I rarely watch films anyway, and when I do, tend to revisit old favourites. But I wouldn’t mind seeing this. The novel I love possibly more than just about any other novel I have read: with this and with War and Peace, I don’t just re-read it, I re-live it. And it’s a tremendously subtle and complex novel. I have come across far too many simplistic views of the work – the most common simplification being that of Anna as a passionate woman who rebels against the values of society by having an affair and walking away from her loveless marriage to a dry and pompous bureaucrat and is punished by society for doing so … etc. etc. It’s good to come across someone writing about this novel who acknowledges and understands these subtleties and complexities.

I see that the author of this article, Andrew Kaufman, has also written a book called Understanding Tolstoy: it looks  a bit expensive, but I wouldn’t mind getting hold of it. I do enjoy reading perceptive literary criticism and analysis. It was, after all, Rowan Williams’ book on Dostoyevsky (not the easiest of reads, if truth be told!) that got me back into reading Dostoyevsky again.
Green Jay

Well I have seen the film and loved it for the way it looked and moved, and for the way it compressed some complex information into visual images, and emotional scenes into something such as the opera scene described in the article. (THere's another where she dances too much with Vronsky and raises first suspicions.) I did not like it so much for Keira K and whoever played Vronsky, but the other actors were good. However, as one who has tried to read AK twice and not got more than 1/4 through, I am not well placed to judge it as an adaptation. So this article was fascinating. I think Himadri's description below is very much how I had seen it hitherto, based on TV series or films I have seen before:

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I have come across far too many simplistic views of the work – the most common simplification being that of Anna as a passionate woman who rebels against the values of society by having an affair and walking away from her loveless marriage to a dry and pompous bureaucrat and is punished by society for doing so … etc. etc. It’s good to come across someone writing about this novel who acknowledges and understands these subtleties and complexities.



But from the film I did find Anna & Vronksy rather tawdry ('E's not worth it, luv!') and felt more for Karenin than before, even from reading the first chapters which feature him a lot. I also noted strongly in the film how hypocritical some of the men were, having their bits on the side and that being ok, and how hawk-eyed society was.

Caro, I do think it is a film that needs to be seen at the cinema, because you are then looking (almost) through the proscenium arch and sitting in a plush chair, as at the theatre. And it is very beautiful and detailed visually, including the way in which they make it break out into the "real" landscape. How much do you pay to go the cinema in NZ?

Pilgrim, there are some threads about individual adaptations we discussed in the past, further down the 'main menu'.
Castorboy

There's another AK film adaptation reviewed here
TheRejectAmidHair

Green Jay wrote:
TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I have come across far too many simplistic views of the work – the most common simplification being that of Anna as a passionate woman who rebels against the values of society by having an affair and walking away from her loveless marriage to a dry and pompous bureaucrat and is punished by society for doing so … etc. etc. It’s good to come across someone writing about this novel who acknowledges and understands these subtleties and complexities.



But from the film I did find Anna & Vronksy rather tawdry ('E's not worth it, luv!') and felt more for Karenin than before, even from reading the first chapters which feature him a lot. I also noted strongly in the film how hypocritical some of the men were, having their bits on the side and that being ok, and how hawk-eyed society was.


Hello GJ,

I can't comment on the film, of course, not having seen it. But as Kaufman says in his article, any film adaptation is but an interpretation of the novel itself.

Tolstoy's characterisations are so complex and so intricate, that I find myself feeling for every character: throughout the novel we are presented in various forms that terrible and irresoluble paradox that individual people, being what they are, cannot really help what they do - that they are driven for the most part by forces beyond either their control or their understanding; and yet, everyone is morally responsible for their actions, and must take full responsibility for them. It is from this terrible paradox that the tragedy springs. There is communicated a sense of terror lying immediately beneath the façades of our everyday lives.

Stiva is the philanderer: he likes his "bits on the side". Funnily enough, he isn't a hypocrite: he knows what he is, and he is actually honest in acknowledging to himself that he is no longer in love with his wife now that she is no longer pretty, and, indeed, now that she is prematurely old and worn out with childbearing and with household duties. Of course, Stiva's actions are entirely reprehensible, and his wife, Dolly, seems to me as tragic a figure in her own way as is Anna. But Tolstoy, being Tolstoy, has to probe into Stiva's mind as well, and find even in his shallowness subtleties and complexities that would, I think, have eluded any other novelist.

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