An Essay by me at Open Letters Monthly

I have an essay in the August 2010 edition of Open Letters Monthly. It's on film adaptations, and meant for a general audience:

The Original wasn't Better

Here is an excerpt from near the beginning of the essay:

From the perspective of readers and critics, the question on the table is how serious readers can come to peace with Hollywood adaptations of classic works of literature. (There is also, of course, a growing body of non-western adaptations of canonical western literature, including a pair of highly recommended recent Bollywood adaptations of Shakespeare, Maqbool/Macbeth, and Omkara/Othello—but that’s a subject that deserves its own essay.)

Here, I want to suggest that while readers are right to be wary of specifically Hollywood film adaptations of classic British and American literature, there are in fact times when the old truism that the “original was better” turns out not to be true.

I would love to hear some feedback from readers, either in comments here or at the OLM website.

1 comment:

David Boyk said...

Good points. I think one problem with adaptations of literary fiction is the Oscar-bait tendency to not only "stress fidelity," as you say, but to turn everything into a bland costume drama by emphasizing the archaism of the sets, costumes and dialogue. Of course, that doesn't mean that all period pieces are staid - I love the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, for instance.

Minor point: The Third Man was originally a movie, and was only subsequently released as a novella. According to Wikipedia, Graham Greene wrote it while they were making the movie, in order to help with the production. Given the flawlessness of the movie, it's inevitable that the book is not as good.