Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Movies That Are Better Than Books, I

Poodletail asked what movies I thought surpassed the books they were based on.

The very first one that popped into my mind was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).

That's almost an unfair example:  
a movie by a painter vs. a book by a paralyzed writer (Jean-Dominique Bauby) who has to blink his one remaining eye to select a letter. 
But then, art, like life, is unfair. 

Images can tell (some) stories better than words, and Schnabel is a visual filmmaker.

Some movies are better because their book told a good story but wasn't well written, like the Harry Potter series.

Full disclosure: I'd probably think (almost) any movie with Alan Rickman was better than a book.

Sometimes a movie just nails it, even though the book is also excellent. I'd rewatch To Kill a Mockingbird before I'd reread it, even though it's a good book. (Actually, I'm a little reluctant to rewatch it, fearing it won't hold up...)

Still, those opening shots, at least, remain perfect: I can hear the sound of the objects in the box--(Hollywood-style moviemaking relies way too much on movie music instead of sound).

Some futuristic/ alternative world stuff is hard to write (read) without getting bogged down in description and can be far better on screen, like 2001: A Space Odyssey (or--this is debatable--but I prefer Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy as a movie) or Blade Runner:

I just saw the new Mad Max (Fury Road), and a book could be a better vehicle to convey the inner life of the characters, but you sure couldn't get better vehicles.

Charlize Theron and her rig

I want to think more about this, but I've got to write an index.

* *  * Can you think of a movie that is better than the book?


bink said...

For some reason, I read the book Stardust, after seeing the movie... it couldn't compete with Robert De Niro in a dress.

Two movies that I remember being quite different from the books, but just as enjoyable were:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Cold Comfort Farm

Surely there are others, but I draw a blank.

Zhoen said...

Murder My Sweet, which is based on Farewell My Lovely by R. Chandler. Dick Powell was just wonderful, and they made the plot make some kind of sense.

I tend to judge movies and books very differently, as I would a painting and a sculpture. Different medium, so different expectations. Short stories tend to be more adaptable to film, letting the visual elements hold the story, even add to it. A book with a complex plot gets chewed down too much in a film. Although the bbc series of Smiley's People (which had Alan Rickman in a small part) did pretty well at keeping the twists and turns mostly intact.

Michael Leddy said...

The only one I’ve been able to think of is The Best Years of Our Lives, which is adapted from Glory for Me, a book-length poem by MacKinlay Kantor. But the film is is so different as to be another thing, really.

rr said...

Aaaaah... but how would the film of H2G2 (Hitchiker's Guide) compare with the audio version? That is the medium in which the series started life and, in my entirely biassed opinion, lives best. I was very disappointed by the film.

Frex said...

BINK: Ha. Robert DeNiro was never better, in my mind, than as the crossdressing pirate.
(I remember Gaiman saying how easy it is to write a flying pirate ship vs. constructing one for a film.)

I've actually never seen or read Cuckoo's Nest. Not sure I want to...
I think I enjoyed Cold Comfort Farm more as a movie. What a cast! Ian McKellan, the smoldering Rufus Sewell, Eileen Atkins ("I saw something nasty in the woodshed"), Joanna Lumley (and the bras!), Stephen Fry...

Even with such a cast, it could have gone one centimeter off and been bad, but it didn't.

ZHOEN: I usually like Raymond Chandler in film---but also I love his writing style... even though the stories MAKE NO SENSE!
I read one aloud to a (mildly) sick friend in bed one summer: happy memories.

I always quote John Le Carré on movie adaptions: they are necessarily like reducing an ox to a bouillon cube, he said.
I like that.

Anyway, yes, I agree, films are visual and aural more than verbal, and books are all verbal, so it's like apples and oranges, but I'm still thinking about which ones are sometimes *clearly* superior, and why.

MICHAEL: How odd---I didn't know that was based on a ...book-length poem? WUT?

Along those lines, sort of, I've never gotten far in the book From Here to Eternity but enjoyed the movie far more than I expected--part of my Burt Lancaster retrospective.

RR: Hey! Hi, there!
I can well believe the radio version of H2G2 is perfection---reading the book, it seemed it should be read aloud, but I haven't heard it.

I'm really not a fan of the book or movie, either one, though, so don't feel strongly about it.

I *do* love Douglas Adams's book about endangered species, Last Chance to See, which is where I first learned about flightless parrots.

Here is Adams (R.I.P.) explaining their mating rituals--amusingly, of course:

bink said...

And Wolf Hall on TV beats the two books it's taken from: Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The writing is good but meanders here and there and--especially in Wolf Hall--it can very easy to lose the thread of who is speaking. The BBC miniseries tightens it all up and loses very little-- so I would recommend it over the books.