Thursday, June 26, 2008
Read A Movie, See a Book
I've just read Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and viewed the two films based on his charming work. The first was a Hanna Barbera cartoon (1973) and the second a live action piece with heavy CGI (2006). As I watched these two films I started considering what happens when a story is taken from a written work and adapted and interpreted for a visual cinema.
Unfortunately, in most cases the adaptation is controlled by a studio with the profit margin a primary consideration. However, sometimes, the person doing the adaptation has such control over the process, or slips under the radar, and a remarkable work of art occurs that does justice to the original creation or even surpasses it.
Look at "Lord of the Rings". Now, I know that there are those out there who will roll their eyes and consider me a heretic for suggesting that Peter Jackson gave us something equal to Tolkein's magnum opus, but stop and ask yourself if he gave you something magical and epic, something that matches Tolkein in scope and wonder. No one could ever expect Jackson to transfer the book sentence by sentence. It would bore you to tears. The written word is experienced differently than the visual image. But did he capture the essence of Tolkein and at the same time imbue it with his own vision? I think the answer is yes.
What about some other classic texts that have been made into successful films? "To Kill A Mockingbird"? Poetic, beautiful in both print and on screen. "Something Wicked This Way Comes"? Bradbury took a mesmerizing tale about innocence and living in the present and turned it into something mundane. "Brokeback Mountain"? The text is a short story with potential, but the film is a riveting and tragic love story. "Silence of the Lambs"? Demme and Hopkins made that film. I won't fault Harris, but his work wasn't profound or especially well-written. Entertaining? Yes. But it doesn't rise to the heights suggested by the brilliant performance by Hopkins.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 11:07 AM