Saturday, April 17, 2010

Books to Movies

This week it was either write about my garden or the movie I saw this afternoon. In the past I have turned over the dirt by hand, but I haven’t had a vegetable garden for a number of years and the wildflower seeds I threw in the dirt patch had turned the area into a waist high tangle of wildflowers - emphasis on the wild part. I cheated and had he gardener use his roto tiller to clear the area and turn over the dirt. For now there is just a blank canvas of clear dirt waiting for me to decide what to plant, and not enough garden to write about.

So, about the movie. I didn’t want to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo until I’d finished the book. I read the last page yesterday and made plans to see the movie this afternoon. I was curious how they would alter the story for the movie.

The basic plot is a journalist whose been convicted of writing a libelous article is hired by the head of a big family corporation to find the killer of his niece who disappeared forty years ago. Oddly enough the journalist isn’t the girl with the dragon tattoo. She works for a security firm and ends up helping the journalist with his investigation. It is definitely not a cozy.

The book is hugely successful, though as I was reading I could just hear an editor pointing out that the story didn’t really start until around page 90, and it was confusing whose story it was supposed to be, and that at around 590 pages, it rambled a bit.

I think it was originally written in Swedish and they left a lot of Swedish words in it to describe things with no explanation of what they were. There were a lot of references to places without describing what they were either. I hoped seeing the movie would clear all that up.

Okay, for starters, the movie didn’t clear up any of it, because none of those things were in the movie. They took out all the food references and always making pots of coffee, too. But seeing the movie so soon after reading the book was an interesting experience. I basically spent the whole two or so hours contemplating the differences between the two versions of the story. I also wondered if the movie would have made sense if I hadn’t read the book first.

I can certainly understand why authors are often so upset about how their books change when they’re adapted for a movie. Stieg Larsson would probably be hysterical if he wasn’t dead. Telescoping aspects of the story is understandable, but the movie gave the tattooed girl a back story she didn’t have in the book. And they took out a lot of the back story the journalist had in the book so he seemed flat. Characters did really big things in the movie they didn’t do in the book, which I thought changed who they were. The movie didn't even show the girl's dragon tattoo.

It was odd how there were some scenes in the movie that were directly from the book and other major events that were totally altered. I forgot to mention it was in Swedish with subtitles.

I saw Twilight right after finishing the book and felt completely different about that adaptation. I thought the movie was true to the book.

How do you feel about seeing movies based on books you’ve read?


sosarahsew said...

When the TV mini-series for John Jakes' "North and South" came out, I was disappointed. I felt the only similarity was that the North won. "Sarah, Plain and Tall", was changed from a child's perspective to a movie focusing on the adults. "Holes" on the other hand was nearly word for word from the book. In my previous life I taught sixth grade; I enjoyed showing a movie after we had finished the corresponding book to see the students reaction and hear them exclaim "no! the dad had a heart attack, not a stroke" or "that wasn't in the book!" Sarah

Terri Thayer said...

I saw the movie, too, but I'd read the book several years ago so my memory wasn't as fresh. I was interested in seeing the landscape and the rooms and such. I didn't need to see the graphic violence.

I usually decide to enjoy the movie ahead of time, no matter what. No movie can do a book justice in my view. They're just too short.

The only time I really got crazed was BLOOD WORK, a Michael Connelly book and Clint Eastwood film. Michael had talked about it at a writer's conference so I was excited to see it. Reread the book. Was I confused when Eastwood changed the identity of the murderer!

Betty Hechtman said...


I bet the kids had a hard time dealing with it. Somehow it doesn't seem fair.

Linda O. Johnston said...

When I go to movies or watch TV shows that are based on books, I expect them to be different, so that's not what disappoints me. A lot of film versions aren't nearly as good as the books, though. The film industry tries to make their version more appealing onscreen and to work well with the cast they choose, but too many times I think they just should have gone with the story they bought in the first place.

signlady217 said...

"Gone With the Wind"--book, awesome; movie, really good and great if you've never read the book. The movie leaves out quite a bit of stuff about her first two marriages, but I think maybe because it was so long it was hard to know where to make cuts.

The sequel "Scarlett"--really good for being written by someone else; movie, just terrible! The storyline was almost unrecognizable. Not one of my favorites.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I know lots of people disagree with me, about "Scarlett" in particular! And that's ok, because differences in opinions are what makes the world go round (and sells books!)

"Holocaust" by Eric Weiss-- true story based on his family; movie starred James Woods and Meryl Streep. Very close to being identical; they did a good job on that one.

"The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom--again, a true story based on her family; the movie changed some things that I think they should have left alone, but overall the basics were there, so a pretty good job with this one.

"Cheaper by the Dozen" and the sequel "Belles on Their Toes" (also true stories based on the authors' family). The movies (1 & 2) with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt were changed almost completely. The only thing they got right from the books was there were 12 kids! This one really bugged me because it was soooo different.

Betty Hechtman said...

Terri, we are so on the same page. I wanted to see the landscape, too. I really wanted to see the town, which didn't seem to even exist in the movie. I wanted to see more of the interior of the big houses.

I could have done without the graphic violence, too. That was the one thing that transferred almost directly from the book.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, I think sometimes it seems like they just wanted the title.

Betty Hechtman said...

Signlady, I saw the new version of Cheaper By the Dozen. I think there excuse for all the changes would be that they were tying to make it more contemporary.

You certainly have a good memory of the difference between books and movies. I read Gone With The Wind and saw the movie, but have more memory of the Carol Burnett take off than either the book or movie.