I am most emphatically NOT someone who believes the oft-repeated claim, “books are better than movies,” or thinks “the movie can never live up to the book.” I think a small but critical number of movies based on books have improved greatly on the source material.
And, for the record, here’s my final word on adaptations as a writer: any time someone wants film rights to one of my works, they can have them for the right price, and I’ll cheerfully wash my hands.
I’ve written scripts and I love writing scripts. I’ve written novels and I love writing novels. They’re two completely different experiences. I don’t have much desire to do adaptations, especially of my own work. Anyone who wants to adapt my work can have carte blanche to bugger it once my agent gets the briefcase of money, or better yet the duffel bag. Thereafter, I won’t badmouth you in the press. I won’t even visit the set so I can meet Kate Winslet and C. Thomas Howell. As a writer, on the adaptation of my work, I have no opinion.
But as a fan, on the adaptation of other people’s work, I have lots of opinions.
The rest of this column is written from the point of view of a very cranky reader and a very cranky film viewer. I am a bitch when it comes to movies, as all my friends will tell you. I love films but I hate almost all the films I see. So take it with a grain of salt.
At its best, a film adaptation finds the central narrative of the novel and streamlines it. It takes away sub-plots, diversion, a certain amount of leisurely character development and certain other potentially confusing elements, in order to come up — ideally — with the simplest narrative possible, one that can be delivered in 90 to 120 minutes.
In my opinion that’s not about the audience being stupid, or “most people” being stupid, as I often hear book-writers saying about movies. I consider the view that “movie audiences” are “stupid” to be kinda classist and just plain snooty. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But movies and books are different art forms, and have different needs for satisfying the audience. I’ve read far too many books to pretend that books are, by their nature, “smart.” Most books are f*$#*@ing stupid, period. (more…)Read More...