Indefiniteness of Literature vs. Specificity of Cinema

Well, hello there! Yes, I still exist despite my lack of posting.

I have decided to share with you (the world) an article I just read at themillions.com. As the title of the post indicates, the article is concerned with filmmakers’ adaptation of books.

There is a long standing debate in my house on whether the film (any adaption we just watched) was as good as the book. 99% of the time, it was not. I can only think of three—off the top of my head—that have lived up (or somehow surpassed) the books: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jaws, and Jurassic Park. The first two Harry Potter movies are very close.

In this article, Alan Levinovitz explores the reasons why making a book into a movie is not only difficult and extremely expensive, but also faced with the challenge of overcoming first impressions (the article will make sense of it).

Think of Bread in General: On Making Books Into Movies

When Christopher Tolkien recently broke a 40-year public silence inLe Monde, he did not have kind words for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25, and it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

Tolkien snubbed an invitation to meet with Jackson, and, as his father’s literary executor, he has sworn not to allow adaptations of material over which he has control (like The Silmarillion). Had it been his choice, Jackson’s blockbusters would likely never have been produced, and certainly not in their present form. But it wasn’t his choice. In 1969, United Artists made a prescient purchase from the elder Tolkien: £100,000 for full rights to movies and derived products for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And that was that.

The result, according to Christopher Tolkien, was nothing less than disastrous: “[J.R.R.] Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing.”

Continue reading the article . . .

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