Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From Page To Screen: Why It Pays To Give Film Adaptations A Chance

By Christina Freitas

Everyone says it, and it's usually (scratch that - always) true - the book is better than the movie. To be fair, there are nuances of both film and literature that cannot be replicated onto the face of the other. Much can be gained, and therefore lost, in cinematic translations from page to screen. Despite how we lament time and again those classic novels that were turned into average, maybe even awful films, we continually yearn for our favorite novels to become films, or even a television series. More and more we become enamored with the intricacies these novels display onscreen, rather than minor details left out in the interest of time and money.

Which got me thinking - maybe we're too hard on those individuals who adapt books for the cinema. After all, screenwriting and novel writing each have their own strengths, and writers can often find success in both genres. 

Here at Godine, two authors come to mind. One is Daniel Fuchs (author of The Golden West and The Brooklyn Novels), who is an accomplished screenwriter and won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the 1955 film Love Me Or Leave Me. There’s also Noel Langley, author of The Land of Green Ginger, who produced the screenplay for a film we should all know - The Wizard of Oz in 1939.

Their publications cross entirely separate genres, from introspective looks at the Hollywood machine in an autobiographical light, to an exploration of enticing worlds born of a writer’s imagination. As screenwriters, their vision of the storytelling world bears a unique tint. Their perspective of characters, narrative form, and scenery will often hearken back to their roots in cinema, though these are roots that also simmer in the world of the novel. As difficult as it is to reproduce a novel on film without losing some of its magic, whether challenges rest with casting calls or re-imagined scenes, we should not ignore the shared imaginary tracts of these two fields.

These two screenwriters successfully bridged the worlds of cinema and the printed page, and when a screenplay remains faithful, chances are a film will triumph in the minds of its avid followers, if not at the box office. When I think about successful film adaptations, a few examples always spring to mind: The Lord of the Rings franchise, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Godfather, and more recently, The Silver Linings Playbook. Behind each production is a faithful screenwriter and a crew devoted to capturing the essence of these stories, in the words of their creators.

When film adaptations succeed, the effects are tremendous. Your beloved characters stand personified, often exactly as you imagined them, and there's something oddly satisfying about chronicling their journeys on a screen that isn't isolated in your mind. You bear witness to their victories; experiencing every emotional lasso that cinema can rope around your arms. You want to be moved and cinema, like novels, is a wondrous mode of transportation.

So when your favorite novel trickles into Hollywood’s heart, don’t despair: give it a chance! Do you have any particular favorites film adaptations, or think any Godine books would make a great movie? Leave comments below or join us on Twitter @GodinePub. For more information on The Golden West, The Brooklyn Novels or The Land of Green Ginger, please visit our website.   

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