16 July 2013

Why film adaptations fail

EDIT: This particular answer on quora.com does a good job of describing why film adaptations usually disappoint readers: http://qr.ae/Ihtpz 

I recently watched To Kill A Mockingbird, the movie. Made two years after the book was written, the movie is Robert Mulligan’s take on the book. I was pleasantly surprised with the initial part of the movie. The first 45 minutes were wonderful. For all my dislike for film adaptations of popular novels, I loved these 45 minutes. Scout from the movie seemed very similar to Lee’s Scout; Jem was just as defiant; Dill was just as innocent and, Atticus was just as Atticus-y. 

But from that point on the movie, in my opinion, was a straight downhill ride. Tom Robinson’s court case is an important part of the book; but clearly, not the only part of the book. The film completely forgets Aunt Alexandra, Uncle Jack and many other things, which, contrary to popular opinion, are an integral part of the book. 

I was disappointed by a film adaptation yet again. Why is it that movies based on books always fail to impress the original readers? 

For example, every Harry Potter fan agrees to the fact that the movies are a very sad, sorry version of the books. They do a very poor job of conveying the complexity of the books. To a person who has only seen the movies, well, the good guy killed the bad guy and that is that. But for people who have read the entire series, there exists a long interval, which is filled with events, characters, and emotions. 

On a very fundamental level, I want the movie to stay true to the book. I want it to maintain every aspect down to the finest detail. I want the director to completely borrow the author’s vision. I want the movie to be a perfectly aligned track of the book. But that, rationally, can never happen.

Because basically, these movies strip down a book to its functional core, eliminate any part which doesn’t directly contribute to its understanding and then dramatize it. The worst bit is that the director enforces his creation onto viewers: his interpretation against that of the author, his imagination against those of the readers. I don’t want my image of the Great Hall tarnished by what someone else visualized it to be and I am sure others agree. The Atticus Finch in my head is not irritatingly pensive. A movie forces onto me its vision with an absolute air that is hard to shake off. Despite countless attempts, my mental Harry Potter resembles Daniel Radcliffe a bit too much for my liking. 

I know the simplest solution is that I choose not to watch further film adaptations of novels I enjoy reading. And that is why I am not watching The Fountainhead movie anytime soon.