How many people do you think have read the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley? Despite its age, it's actually a fascinating, compelling book that is only remotely related to the movies that have been made in its name.
It makes me wonder, what would Mary Shelley think if she saw a movie of her book? Would she be pleased? Bemused? Disappointed? Or not even recognize it as a derivative of her original work?
On Sunday evening I was blog-trotting and visited one of my favorite writer's blog Allison Winn Scotch, who is the author of The Department of Lost and Found and the soon to be released Time of My Life. She wrote a post on the Oscars and books that had been made into movies. As I began writing my comment to her post, my mind went off on a tangent, and I realized that I had the subject of another post!
Actually this one had been brewing in my mind ever since I read Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. Her book was derived from her blog where she journaled her daily journey through the Julia Child's classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I then went in search of her blog. There I read a post where she excitedly announced that her book had been optioned to be made into a movie, and later announced that Meryl Streep would be one of the actors to star in the movie.
This got me thinking, what is it like to have a movie made from your book?
Margaret Mitchell's epic translated well to the screen. Perhaps like many others, I saw the movie before I read the book. And while I ultimately enjoyed the book more, in this case I believe the movie stood alone as a groundbreaking work of art.
But I wonder, what did Margaret Mitchell think when she saw her book on the big screen? Did she feel the screenwriters, the director, the actors, got it right? Did Clark Gable capture the same Rhett Butler she originally saw in her imagination?
Or is it too much to expect that reality could ever adequately our imaginations?
Do you remember how popular The English Patient was? Both the book and the movie were an absolute sensation.
However, this is a case where, despite the beauty of the movie, the fine actors, the haunting cinematography, all of it could not compare with the stunning poetry of the Michael Ondaatje's original novel.
Laying aside the business considerations of payouts and movie options, what does it feel like to turn your work of art over to others to re-write and re-interpret? Is there a sense of loss, or a hopeful anticipation?
This raises two interesting ideas about movies made from books: 1) perhaps the movie are more accessible, or a more comprehensible vehicle for conveying a theme than a book, or 2) more hopefully, a well-done movie version leads people to read a book they may not otherwise have approached, and perhaps the movie serves as a 'Cliff notes' to make a difficult book comprehensible.
One of my favorite movies of all time, Doctor Zhivago....I saw it for the first time when I was a little girl, years before I ever knew that there was a book of the same name.
I have not yet had the opportunity to read Boris Pasternak's original novel (although I actually own both the book and the movie). But when I do, I know that I will see Omar Sharif and Julie Christie as Dr. Zhivago and Lara.