Books on the Big Screen and going Beyond the Book

I think it’s hard to have a publishing-related blog this week and not write about the Random Penguin in its Penguin House but this is all I will say on the matter (Random Penguins need quiet nights in too especially with such big decisions to make! We will interrupt his evening in the future, next week perhaps). Speaking of quiet nights in, I am currently curled up on my sofa with a bowl of cereal watching Stardust, a lovely evening after a day of scanning and research and Turpin forms and proofreading at Berghahn Books.

The thing about film adaptations is that most people don’t like them. Of course, I am generalising but it seems to be a given that if a book is adapted for the screen a lot of people won’t like it and a lot of people will complain until they’re red in the face about how the conversion from book to film has ruined their darling and the best/most important parts have been cut out.

There is no way of keeping all of the fans happy but there is no denying that book-films bring more fans to their authors. More people will read the book after seeing the film. Personally, I love it when books I enjoy are turned into films and in a lot of cases, when I discover a book-movie I will then read the book it is derived from even if it’s not something I would normally read. I like playing ‘spot the difference’. There are very few I have disliked, even those that bend the story of their book to breaking point.

Some call this blasphemy, I call it perspective. I never watch a film with the expectation that it will be like the book, it would only end in disappointment. Films cannot be like their page-filled counterparts; there are some things in books that cannot be done in films and there are some things that simply don’t work on the big screen. Books can hold a lot more meat so, of course, things will be cut – and that is okay. There is no one universal way to interpret a book so the film will never be as you imagined.

There is one film, the one I am currently watching, which I think sticks incredibly well to the story of the book. Things have been changed, they had to be. If I remember correctly, the book is a shade darker than the film (which was aimed at a PG-13 audience) but the transition seems to fit. They have masked the darker parts with humour – some of them, anyway. It has a special place in my heart, it’s written by my favourite author and some of its scenes were filmed in my hometown, if the pictures and writings on the wall of one of our local pubs are to be believed.

I’m currently reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart for the first time, having owned it for years and seen the film and while it is rather different so far it still feels like the same story. Only in the film Meggie doesn’t annoy me quite so much but that may change, I am only halfway through and I will be reviewing it once I’ve finished and before I move on to the next book in the series. (I know, I know I have at least two books to review already – make that four… soon! Soon!)

Anyway, films go beyond the book. And that brings me to the second part of this blog post – going beyond the book.

This morning, when I checked my emails, I was caught by two articles from Publishing Perspectives (1, 2) about Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of InnocenceThe Museum of Innocence is both a novel and a museum situated in Istanbul, a novel which I now want to read and a museum which I can only dream of going to. Upon reading these articles there was one thing that sprung to mind: The Night Circus

I cannot think of a more perfect book to go ‘beyond’ with. If you haven’t read it, you should (review to come). The Night Circus could be such a beautiful exhibition – combine Morgenstern’s imagination with the work of talented artists and set designers and that circus could, in part, come to life. It is definitely something I’d love to see. 

There is something enchanting about books which aren’t just books, books which have things you can see and touch beyond the words on the page. It’s something I would definitely be interested in helping to create some day, if my publishing career should lead me down that route. I hope it does.

Of course, The Night Circus  is an obvious choice for such an endeavour but what other novels would suit being brought to life in … well, whatever form best befits them really, are there any titles that you would like to see, touch, smell, taste? Let me know what you think in the comments, possible-readers! I’m curious.

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