How many times do you read a book and like it, then hear that it is being made into a movie? It seems that a really good book may have qualities that don’t translate to a good movie.
It was said once – and I can’t remember who said it – that more bad books make good films rather than the other way round. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is a good yarn, but a long way from being a great piece of literature. The film version, however, is one of the great American movies of all time with the bad bits – especially the sex scenes that even Harold Robbins might laugh at – jettisoned.
What can make a book fall over when it hits the screen? Reviews have been less than enthusiastic for the film version of S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and it may be that gimmick-style revelations at the end can’t work when the many readers of the novel know them. Will this make the film version of Gone Girl, expected soon, go the same way?
There are, however, some interesting adaptations coming up and they may work well on the screen. The film of Z for Zachariah, the classic YA novel by Robert C. O’Brien, may be the first major movie filmed on location in Port Levy and a cast that includes Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Margot Robbie sounds promising.
Further up the island, in the Marlborough Sounds, filming has begun on an adaptation of the excellent novel by M. L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans, the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who find a boat washed ashore with a dead man and an infant on board. Their decision to raise the child as their own drives the plot of the novel which is actually set in Australia. The film has Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander in the cast.
One of my favourite writers –if you like state of the nation novels – is Dave Eggers and the film version of A Hologram for the King is an interesting choice for a big American film in that it’s about a middle class man trying to hold himself and his family together as the world economy falters by trying to sell himself and his ideas to the burgeoning Arabian world. Tom Hanks is in the lead.
The dystopian world of J. G. Ballard is perfectly captured in his High Rise which is set in a luxury high rise building where things start to go wrong, leading to a major social breakdown. The novel, firmly set in the Thatcher era, has been on the cards for decades and is only now coming to film with Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans and Sienna Miller in the cast.
Nicole Kidman’s career may be faltering at the moment, but good on her for buying the rights to one of the most outrageous and funny novels, around, Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, featuring the worst parents imaginable, a couple of performance artists and their children who live in permanent embarrassment at the idiotic performances their parents dream up. Kidman and Jason Bateman play the parents with Bateman directing.
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who made American Splendor, are adapting the Eleanor Henderson novel Ten Thousand Saints, a coming of age story of a boy growing up in 1980s New York and being buffeted by the different ideas and lifestyles around him. Asa Butterfield, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Nicholson and Emily Mortimer lead the cast and if the film captures the time and place as well as the novel it should be a standout.
Martin Scorsese has been planning an adaptation of the classic Shusaku Endo novel Silence for years. The story is set in the 17th century and deals with the violence and persecution that ensues when the missionaries come to spread the Christian faith in Japan. Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Ken Watanabe and Adam Driver lead the cast of the film and the novel has been adapted by film critic Jay Cocks. It’s a long way from the last Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street.
How the adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will do on the screen is interesting, given that Janeites and zombie fans are strange bedfellows; but one that should do really well is the adaptation of Lisa Genova’s Still Alice, a moving and original novel about a Harvard professor who is gradually losing her mind, The film version has Julianne Moore in the lead with Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth in the cast.
Irène Némirovsky is an interesting novelist who was forgotten for some time. She was a Russian Jewish writer who died in Auschwitz. Her Suite Française was rediscovered and published posthumously and it gives as real a portrait of what it was like in Paris in the early 1940s. The film version has been planned for some time and was finished recently with Michelle Williams, Margot Robbie, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Riley and Ruth Wilson in the cast.
Which, if any, of these films are you looking forward to seeing?