One of my pupils has Animal Farm as a set text so I re-read it yesterday in preparation for our next lesson. I read it first as a very young teenager and it made such an impression that I rushed out and bought all the George Orwell novels that I could lay my hands on!
I had forgotten how small but perfectly formed it is as a novel! It certainly would rank very high on my ‘must read’ list so if any of you readers out there have inexplicably missed it, please put that right straight away.
It was an interesting read yesterday in the context of the media furore about Margaret Thatcher and the positives and negatives of strong leadership. This blog is probably not the place to elaborate on my views of her legacy – although I do have some rather firm ones!
I recently rewatched the classic Hitchcock film of the novel Rebecca starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. The first line of the novel, quoted in the post’s title, is one of the most memorable first lines in any novel. Watching the film made me think about how underrated du Maurier is as a novelist. In Rebecca the characterisation is very accomplished and the house itself takes on an eerie presence. My absolute favourite though has to be Jamaica Inn with its setting on bleak Bodmin Moor – a thrilling story of smuggling and Gothic horror. Many of her novels have leant themselves to film or TV adaptation and one of the most successful was her short story Don’t Look Now set in Venice and starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. This is the only film that has made me scream aloud in the cinema!
Why not give her novels a try !
I recently went to see The Woman in Black at the cinema. I read the book and saw the play a long time ago. I also remember a television version which was extremely scary!
This film version starring Daniel Radcliffe (he of Harry Potter fame) was even more scary and most enjoyable. It did however take certain liberties with the text – particularly in terms of the ending. My suspicion is that the Hollywood desire for a ‘happy ending’ insofar as that is possible with this story, shaped the ending which for me did not ring true, and seemed out of sync with the rest of the film. My understanding is that Susan Hill the author was not too thrilled with the ending, and that they tried out several versions. How faithful should films be to a text?
Films of books are often less than satisfactory – I could name countless films that for me were pale imitations of the novels they were based on. Obviously film faces certain constraints that one’s imagination doesn’t! And if the film version contradicts your expectations it’s a real disappointment. However, there are exceptions. Here are a few of my favourites which I feel measure up well.
The Harry Potter films.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – an interesting example where the book poses the problem of having alternate endings. The film used the play within a play technique to resolve this and to even provide another dimension. Mind you, having a top class playwright (Harold Pinter) do the adaptation probably helps!
And what about War Horse? It is based on a children’s story which became an amazing play with horse puppets (although that word hardly does justice to them). The play was absolutely sensational and I have to admit that I have put off watching the Hollywood take on the story. And, ok, I admit it – as a horse lover I’d rather sob in the privacy of my own home than in a crowded cinema, so I’m waiting for the DVD.
One of the assessment pieces set for English GCSE is a film review and it is one that most pupils quite enjoy. They have to consider all the film techniques employed as well as produce an effective piece of writing. Discussing the possibilities and the restrictions of this genre is an interesting aspect.
Are there any films which are better than the original text? Any suggestions?