The Book Wins Out!

I’m über-glad I stuck with A Thousand Acres. The thing really picked up in the second half, and of course, the book was much better– more nuanced; more willing to go more in-depth into more dark places; more cognizant of the resident seeds of evil hanging around in even the most lamblike of us– than the movie. I was especially impressed with the way Smiley had the narrator grow up and out of her meek cluelessness, without feeling pressured to bring the story to a victorious, trumpets-and-sunshine end.

The one thing the movie adaptation did well? Cast Michelle Pfeiffer in the role of Rose. And I can’t remember at all how the cinema version brought things to a close, but at least from what I recall seeing, Jessica Lange was also a good choice for Ginny, at least in pre-epiphany mode.

So: one more win for the book over the movie. While considering this competition, though, I was reminded of those rare times when each version of a story is equally as good as the other. I’m thinking about two examples in particular: 1) the account of Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. I first learned about it from the documentary that detailed it all, Man on Wire. Absolutely brilliant. It sent me straight to the protagonist’s own written original, To Reach the Clouds. Even though I knew what would happen, and how, the latter had me biting my nails to the end.

2) The Harry Potter series is an entirely different animal for me, and constitutes one rare, collective instance where I’m content to let each genre exist as a set of completely unique products– maybe because all of them were of high quality, and because, given the length of the later books, I was willing to allow for some excising in the later films.

That’s all I have to say about that, though, other than the fact that I would like to check out Peter Brook’s lengthy version of The Mahabharata. The time, though! There have to be five hours free somewhere

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5 comments

  1. lostgander

    Glad to hear it was worth your while. I agree about the Harry Potter phenomenon. I feel similarly about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, though I do think the books were better, and the films not as good as the Potter ones.

    I also agree about Man on Wire. That was fantastic. Maybe I should read his book.

    The book to film transition is sure tricky. Many of the best films I've seen that are based on books are not ones that I've read the book. And I'm less likely to go back and read the book at that point, mostly because I already know what happens. And I'm always leery if I've read the book first. However, a few movies I thought captured the spirit of a book well include My Left Foot, Naked Lunch, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. A couple others I thought weren't too bad: Revolutionary Road and The Shipping News.

  2. Special K

    Lord of the Rings: It's hard for me to feel as if I'm capable of making an “objective” comment here; I loved the books when I was 14, but didn't go back and reread them before a colleague forced me into viewing all three of the movies, back-to-back, one Sunday. All I remember from the latter series are lots of CGI armies and the elf who always seemed to adopt a “Hey, ladies” stance, regardless of the situation; I'm hopelessly unable to differentiate what happened from one film to the next– and now I'm afraid to go back and read the books, lest the childhood magic disappear.

    I do want to watch Naked Lunch! Part of me has always thought that making 6th graders read said novel would cut down on drugs' attraction factor among The Youth. And I've been meaning to read Fear and Loathing for years, even though I'm sure I'd be even more terrified by what's portrayed via the written word than by the disturbing visual of that huge lizard tail Depp wears at some point in the film (which generally made me feel as if I were a used cigarette trapped in a wet gutter).

  3. lostgander

    That sounds horrible re: LOTR. No one should have to experience that. I just realized those films came out over 10 years ago. I doubt I could sit through any of them today.

    Actually, of all my examples I only feel relatively certain I'd still feel the same about Naked Lunch. None were from anything approaching recent memory.

    (Lovely cigarette metaphor! I feel queasy now. So for that, you get Reply