This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish blog) is a “freebie” meaning you can pick whatever topic you want. As I have recently seen the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd I decided to do my Top Ten Book to Film Adaptations. I’ve only gone for ones where I have both read the book and seen the film, which actually made this harder to do than I thought it would be because if I’ve loved a book I will often avoid to film so as not to spoil it, and if I’ve seen the film first I might not read the book as I already know what happens. Also, when I do get round to seeing films of books I’ve loved I’m often hugely disappointed if not enraged by the poor job they’ve done so it was hard to pick ten that I would recommend! So here they are, as usual in no particular order…
(NB Whilst I really loved Far From the Madding Crowd – it was beautifully shot and Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen gave great performances- it is one of the Hardy’s I haven’t actually read although I have vivid memories of a BBC Radio 4 dramatisation and have been haunted by the idea of sheep running over cliffs ever since)
(All images from IMDB)
Gone with the Wind (1939, dir. Victor Fleming)
I don’t know if its very PC these days to say you love Gone With the Wind but I do. Whilst very different, the book and the film are both powerful evocations of a now (thank goodness) lost era with great characterisation and truly memorable scenes.
The Kite Runner (2007, dir. Marc Foster)
I read Khaled Hosseini’s masterpiece (in my humble opinion) in one sitting across a whole day as I was so moved by the plight of the characters I just had to keep reading in the vain hope that things were going to work out. I was left a quivering wreck when I put it down and whilst the film is not perfect, and misses a lot out, I think it does a good job of capturing the spirit of the book.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, dir. Robert Mulligan)
Classic book, classic film. Does anything else really need to be said?
Brighton Rock (1947, dir. John Boulting)
I read this for a book club a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I think Pinkie is one of the best ‘literary baddies’ I’ve come across and he is brilliantly brought to life by Richard Attenborough.
Romeo + Juliet (1996, dir. Baz Luhrmann)
Does this count with it being a play not a book? Ah well, my rules so yes! I was 14 when this came out and first saw it whilst on school exchange to Mannheim, dubbed in German but I have seen it several times since in English. Leonardo di Caprio was everyone’s favourite teenage heart-throb at the time but I think in this (and others from that time like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?), he can really act! I think it is so clever how they manage to stick to Shakespeare’s words but make it seem completely modern and it just looks and sounds so so good (I’m referring to the soundtrack here which I still listen to, Radiohead’s “Talkshow Host” being the stand out track).
Watership Down (1978, dir. Michael Rosen)
I think I was probably too young when I watched Watership Down for the first time as it really disturbed me. There is something very spooky about the opening sequence telling the rabbit creation story and there are some really quite violent scenes of fighting rabbits. Apparently, one day out of the blue I asked my mum if “her daddy was covered in blood and scratches like the rabbits on Watership Down when he died?” it was obviously my first encounter with death and I thought that’s what it looked like! I have watched it several times since, including as an adult, and read the book when I was about 12 or 13 I think. The best thing about Watership Down the film is that whilst it is a cartoon it completely avoids “Disneyfication” and stays quite true to the book.
The Road (2009, dir. John Hillcoat)
The Road is a rarity for me as it is a film I was reluctant to see having really disliked the book, but actually thought its big screen incarnation was much better. Whilst Cormac McCarthy’s prose left me cold, I found myself weeping in the cinema. Plus any film that features Omar from The Wire automatically gets a thumbs up from me.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011, dir. Lynne Ramsay)
I thought We Need to Talk About Kevin was an excellent book, really powerful and haunting and whilst the film didn’t quite live up to that it was nonetheless very well done with Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilley and Ezra Miller shining in the lead roles.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003, dir. Peter Jackson)
Ok, I admit I haven’t actually read the whole of LOTR word for word, cover to cover but I’ve read enough to know that Jackson does a pretty good job of bringing Tolkein’s universe to life. They are not “great” films but they constitute several hours of entertaining escapism. The less said about the big screen version of The Hobbit, however, the better.
True Grit (2010, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
True Grit was another book club choice that I might not have ordinarily read but was very glad I did. I haven’t seen the earlier John Wayne version of the film so I can’t comment on if that was better or worse, but I think Jeff Bridges is a perfect Rooster Cogburn. And I generally like anything that stars Matt Damon.