September 30, 2004


Terry Teachout posts a quote that all fans of flicks such as LOTR and Master and Commander should have burned into their foreheads:

There is a simple law governing the dramatization of novels: if it is worth doing, it can't be done; if it can be done, it isn't worth it. Trash can be just as trashy on the stage as in an armchair, but when an artist has conceived of something as a novel, let those who think they know a reason why his matter should not be married to his manner forever hold their peace.

John Simon, Acid Test

Posted by Robert at September 30, 2004 11:51 AM | TrackBack

So I take it you're firmly against Wodehouse on the screen as well?

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2004 01:57 PM

I've always thought Jeeves & Wooster was pretty wretched. Fry and Laurie are good in their roles, but you just can't successfully transpose Bertie's first person narrative from print to screen.

I DO have to confess that I enjoy the old Wodehouse Playhouse series, which dramatized some of the Mulliner stories. Then again, Plum himself introduced these, so I would assume they met with his approval.

(Other examples of this principle include the tee-vee dramatizations of "Piece of Cake" by Derek Robinson - a great Battle of Britan novel, btw - and "The Irish R.M." by Somerville and Ross. In each case, the screen version can't hold a candle to the text.)

Posted by: Robert the LB at September 30, 2004 02:05 PM

My rule of thumb in movie adaptation is this: if it makes the story suck and detracts from your enjoyment of the originals, then it is a bad adaptation; if it doesn't detract but doesn't enhance your enjoyment, then it is an okay adaptation; if it enhances your enjoyment it is a great adaptation. LOTR, to me, made me remember how much I loved the books and I loved it. Plus it introduced and spurred many, many people to read the books who otherwise would not have. That alone makes it a great adaptation.

Also, to a certain extent, we should not look to movie adaptations of books to replace or stand equal to the original. They are two different media. LOTR stands alone as a movie, without any knowledge of the book and does so as a fantastic movie.

All this pooh-poohing of movie adaptations can sometimes be a bit absurd. To take the extreme end of this logic, whenever da Vinci painted a horse it was crap because, well, the cavemen at Lascaux painted them thousands of thousands of years ago. Grump, grump.

Posted by: Misspent at September 30, 2004 04:49 PM

Except that the cavemen and Da Vinci were doing their separate takes on a real object - the horse. Aragorn doesn't exist outside the pages of Tolkien's books. I have no problem with a movie as a movie, but when it expropriates the characters and plots of an author's books - and even uses that author's name to sell itself - it better maintain a very high standard of adherence to the book. Which, as the quote says, is usually close to impossible.

Grump, grump, I know. But that's what I'm all about!

Posted by: Robert the LB at September 30, 2004 05:00 PM
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