As an addict of E! News, I have been hearing updates every couple of days about 50 Shades of Grey. I am currently writing a review of this novel as I got the opportunity to finish it on a flight this last weekend. The interest to pick up the novel came for me because I heard it was being made into a film. Which brings me to this rant…I, as lover of all things literary and pop culture, am always interested in seeing how novels are made into films. For me, literature is interesting because it is always fluid. If a novel was written and each sequel, fan fiction novel, and movie are to be the exact replica as the novel, then there would be no purpose of those subsequent items.
I, as a literary student and lover, fight the urge to criticize movies based on their replica of the novel. Of course, as a film is only approx. 2 hours long, and a novel is several hundred pages, things will be left out. I generally do not complain when watching a movie UNLESS the movie leaves out major themes or threads of the story that are imperative to understand the rest of the movie. However, this is not to say that the director should not have the ability to choose what should be focused on in the movie version. The purpose, I believe, of a film, sequel, fan fiction work is to have the creativity to explore whatever themes and characters the author/screenwriter/filmmaker wants to explore.
Most of the time, I pick up novels and later find out that they are being made into film, in which I re-read said novel and try to picture it as a movie. Sometimes, the filmmaker in me gets ahead of herself and becomes disappointed in the film version of the novel. However, sometimes I pick up a novel after I have heard that it is going to be made into a film (Water for Elephants, The Help and most recently, 50 Shades of Grey). In most cases, I do prefer the novel but that is generally because I am obsessed with detail and want to intimately know the characters before I care for them. (If I wasn’t so obsessed with writing, I would have probably been a psychologist)
Sara and I both love to discuss our favorite novels and how they are portrayed in film. I will be doing some novel to film reviews/rants about some of my favorite classics that have been beautifully or horrifically made. I have to keep in mind that when a filmmaker is writing a movie, they are making it for audiences of all ages and intellects. While you and I, as avid readers, would be interested in a 500 page book, many people (unfortunately) look forward to a 2 hour or less escape as the attention span is not likely to retain information longer than that time span. Films based on novels generally come out a few months before Oscar season because, frankly, movies based on novels generally do better during the awards. This, in my opinion, is because readers have already interacted with the characters in their minds and therefore, have an attraction to go see them in the theatre. (Think: The Godfather, Gone With the Wind, etc.) More recently, this last year, 6 out of 9 best picture nominees were based on novels: “Hugo”, “The Help”, “War Horse”, “Moneyball” “The Descendants” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”.
The challenges are there for the filmmakers, to make us literary lovers interested in their characters and their gestures. As long as there are great novels, we will be waiting to watch these filmmakers take on our great loves. When a film is done poorly, we hate it because it is not our own film version in our heads. (Generally this is because the characters weren’t quite right- I think immediately of Edward Cullen (aka Rob Pattinson)- He was so much cuter in my head!) But, even after such terrible experiences of novel to film, it is hard to leave the theatre after a great production because we are once again transported into our minds and imaginations. When the love of our imagination appears on the screen, it takes us back to the wonderful days, weeks or months that we were intimately connected to them while reading the book. For those instances where the movie is exactly what we, as the reader hoped it would be, we hold on to hopes of each experience being just like that one.
For each movie that is coming out this year based on a novel- I’ll be waiting