Rainy Days and Adaptation

Little to update  you on today. The plan had been to go visit a castle in the Czech Republic. Rain and car trouble put an end to that, so I’ve just been at the cottage, writing and playing with TRC. DKC and I watched Cold Comfort Farm again last night, and I really can’t recommend this movie enough to all of you. If you haven’t seen it, you should go out and buy it today. Don’t bother renting–you’ll want to own this puppy. Great acting by an early Kate Beckinsale as well as Ian McKellen and Refus Sewell, directed by John Schlesinger. I really can’t believe this was a made for TV movie over in England. Quirky, layered and as fun to watch the tenth time as it was the first. It’s based on a novel by Stella Gibbons, which I also heartily recommend.

This brings up something that I wanted to say about adaptations in general. So many times people gripe about a movie being worse than its source material, but I think a large part of this is due to the fact that people often only pay attention to the fact that they’re watching an adaptation if they’re already familiar with the original. This sets them up for disappointment, largely due to the simple reason that the experience of watching a movie is (surprise surprise) different than the experience of reading a book. If you’ve read a book and enjoyed it, then go to a film of that book expecting to have the same “feel,” chances are you won’t. For one thing, someone else (say . . . the director) might have had a different “feel” when they read the book, and thus portrayed something you didn’t see. This is one of the big obstacles in adapting any book with layered nuances and themes. There are so many things to choose from as an adaptor–if you’re adapting Huck Finn, do you go for the adventure boy book or the slavery themes or the familial tensions or what? As soon as you make a choice from these selections, you anger some of your potential audience, because you’ve eliminated their favorite part of the source material.

However, if you approach adaptations from a different angle–looking for your favorite movies and then seeing which ones are adaptations, you get a different insight into the process. I don’t suggest this in the hope that you’ll start saying “the movie was better than the book,” but rather that more people will start recognizing the two things are separate. How do I say that an apple was better than an orange? Yes, I might dislike all oranges, and so any apple will be an improvement, and I might be able to say that there was an awful orange and a wonderful apple, so that one can be considered superior, but if you try to argue that the apple was better than the orange because the orange didn’t taste enough like an apple . . .

You get the drift. At some point in the future (when I’m not in Slovakia), I might expand on this little thought and turn it into more of a refined essay. Do any of you have any points to make about it before I do? Agreements? Disagreements? Feel free to make yourself heard.

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