Thursday, July 12, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Celluloid

July 12, 2007

I've joined a weekly meme because everyone else seems to have a weekly group meme, and I don't like to miss anything. So my new meme of choice is called Booking Through Thursday, in which bloggers respond to specific literature-oriented questions. This week's questions are:

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference?

I am going to be teaching an American Literature class to our homeschooling co-op this fall, and I plan to have one night each month in which we watch movies adapted from the novels they are reading. Recently I’ve been previewing movies made from classic American literature, so I’ll stick with those for this.

1. I thought the 1992 Of Mice and Men, directed by Gary Sinise and starring Sinise and John Malkovich, was excellent. I have to say it has been years—okay, maybe close to two decades—since I last read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, so I can’t say how much the movie deviated from the book; however, nothing jumped out at me that made me say, “Hey! That didn’t happen like that!” The movie itself was absolutely wonderful.

2. On the other hand, 1995’s The Scarlet Letter barely qualifies of an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel. (To give the directors their due, the movie does state at the beginning that it is “freely adapted from the novel.”) The only real similarities between the book and the movie are the names of the main characters and the location. Demi Moore turned Hawthorne’s humble and repentant Hester Prynne into a Puritan rebel who more than earns the “R” rating.

3. I had read both books long before seeing the movies—and loved both books. I was specifically watching the movies with two criteria in mind: 1) Is the movie acceptable for teens to watch? And 2) Does the movie follow the novel closely? I expect some deviation, and I think that makes for good discussion; but I want at least a close adaptation. Of Mice and Men was an excellent adaptation, although the language was rather strong. The Scarlet Letter didn’t even come close to fitting the bill on either point.

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