Top 5 Book to Film Adaptations

A friend of mine said ages ago that it would be fun to talk about film and book adaptations on this blog. I’ve talked a lot about this already, like with The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Far From the Madding Crowd, but there are so many good ones, so many equally powerful films and books that I could go on and on. Disregarding what I’ve already written about, I’ve put together a top five!

My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark

It’s more appropriate to note that although the film is My Week with Marilyn, the book is actually in two parts; The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn. Clark wrote the first in Marilyn’s lifetime and the second when she had passed away. He addressed the criticisms and accusations that he was lying and had only written this updated account once Marilyn was not able to contradict him. But, he said it was out of respect for her that he kept quiet all this time. Both parts of the story are enchanting, a really unique look into the film production at the height of iconic fifties. The book translates really well onto screen and Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Williams and Eddie Redmayne are wonderful and brave in their portrayals. Clark said, as these amazing things were happening around him, “…my only talent was not to close my eyes.”

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I can hardly say why, but I love, every now and again, slow books and slow films. I read the book first I believe and how McEwan describes the hot summer weather, the events in the house and the meaningful glances and exchanges between characters masterfully. It’s not only an incredible piece of fiction because of its tragic storyline, but the words themselves transport you; it’s incredibly moving. Difficult then for a film to adequately portray such a special novel but Joe Wright’s 2007 production is equally as masterful. Every detail is considered and explored, slowly, from the costumes to the staging to the movement of fingers and hands. I think James McAvoy is often underappreciated, but he is exceptional in this film. His performance is so natural and painful but controlled in every way, he’s incredible to watch. The lighting, the score, the mise-en-scene, I love it all. I’m also a complete sucker for wartime fashion and makeup.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This is a controversial one, as the book and the film are quite different. However, I have come to find an appreciation for both narratives. I watched the film first with my husband (and used a piece of the score to walk down a small aisle when we eloped!) and bought the book on a whim in a train station. The book is more visceral I would say and rawer than the film interpretation in many ways. For example, there are huge chunks of the story not included in the film (be careful spoilers ahead….I warned you….!), such as when Henry and Clare tie her boyfriend to a tree and beat him up, or Clare’s affair with Gomez or Clare’s mother dying of cancer. As if often the case, the book I feel is richer in content than the film. However, the film, in its humour, emotions, colours, score and character development create a worthwhile and moving story existing almost separately from the book. Clare’s meadow in all the seasons in stunning, for example. The hues, the flowers, the music, it’s all wonderful. When she’s running to the meadow towards the beginning and again at the end, the score exudes freedom. It’s a very special film.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

So, for those who know me personally, you know how much I can be a sucker for Andrew Garfield! He drew me to this film initially, and the acting, the costumes, the colours, the grounds of the school all brought to life this incredible story. In this case, I feel the book and film complimented each other beautifully; when I read the book, it aided my understanding of the narrative of the film. The film in turn, helped me to actualise some of the images I discovered in full in the book. I was very excited when my in laws told me they had watched it but they told me didn’t like it. I asked why and they said it was because it was too sad. This is certainly a book and a film which are hard to stomach, but the experience of both is rich, emotional, and powerful. The bleak themes are challenged only by a handful of moments of true intimacy and warmth; but they are so fleeting; such is life though.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare is so tricky on film. Made for the stage, the challenges of some of the stories do not always translate well onto screen. There have been many instances of this. Equally, there are many instances that get it spot on. Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel, is one of them. My all-time favourite thing about Shakespearean actors who really know their stuff, is how easily they roll the Shakespeare off their tongues; it’s naturally spoken, intonated and articulated and completely beautiful. Michael Fassbender is confident, tortured and amazing to watch. This is of course one of Shakespeare’s most iconic and best known plays. Expectations are often high and this works against filmmakers, but this film embraces the landscape, embraces symbolism, embraces the horror in a way to make the story real for new generations, but is also timeless enough to satisfy Shakespeare nerds like me.

What are you favourite film adaptations? Comment below and let me know!


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