Translation of Book to Film

Every time a movie is adapted from a book, people complain about it. This is understandable; I’ve seen my favorite books butchered in film and it’s never pleasant. However, I recently read the comment on a BuzzFeed article about this that a certain book’s story didn’t "translate" to film. Are there certain books that translate better than others to film, and if so, what are some? Does a book need certain elements to translate well to film, or are filmmakers simply stuck doing the best they can because, print and film being different mediums, certain things are bound to get lost in translation? Discuss.

  • As you have stated before, texts are analyzed ad infinitum. Yet in terms of this topic, I think you could argue slightly different, for a change of pace. All writing goes through drafting phases and all authors go through periods of productivity and delay or self-doubt. That said, how can we destroy an adaptation that is merely going through a rough phase, on its merry way to the final version? Doesn't sound fair to the artist, but then again, is life ever fair? As far as translation goes, an author that is true to his craft and steadfast to the theme will inevitably produce the elusive masterpiece. Another incumbent will fumble the narrative by second-guessing the motive and the medium, failing to strike a vital chord with the audience in the process. Nonetheless, you managed to rehash a contentious issue among art lovers. – L:Freire 3 years ago
  • The two conversing sides of the argument perhaps both have a touch of truth. Most of the books that have failed after being adapted to films have departed so far from the themes and messages of the books that fans have been almost experiencing a different story altogether (e.g. Eragon). This departure from the known characters is such a removal for the audience that it is almost being incorrectly introduced to someone you already know. On the other hand, writing a narrative in hundreds of pages cannot practically incorporate the waves of thoughts, senses, and minor details within a two hour film. While most including myself would gladly take a 12 hour Harry Potter film, to appeal to wider audiences, films cannot be realistically expected to cover all aspects of a book. Certainly, some films have handled the transition better than others and remained true to the heart of the book, but unfortunately the realities of the economically driven film industry prevent the full transition that fans so ardently desire. Maybe the solution is in tv adaptation rather than film to allow for longer screen time, or maybe the magic of perspective and thought disclosure in books can never be truly replicated. – Huntforpurpose 3 years ago
  • I'd be interested in hearing about living writers and their part in the production of the films. Should they be given authority over everything? Do they write the screenplay? if not, does the screenwriter get the say over the writer etc. – sophiatarin 3 years ago
  • It's a valid concern. There is a documentary on The Virgin Suicides that makes the case for inclusion of the writer within the film-making process. Of course, Sofia Coppola has the ultimate say over the characterization of the narrative. But the author of that novel, Jeffrey Eugenides, was a vital component behind the dialogue, the mood, and the setting. Also, I failed to mention earlier that the reverse can be surprisingly successful. For instance, the Star Trek episode "All the Yesterdays" made a seamless foray into a series of acclaimed novel tie-ins by A.C. Crispin. The onscreen romance between Spock and Zarabeth translated into two compelling novels of time travel and a supposed offspring between the pair. – L:Freire 3 years ago
  • A compelling factor in this debate is circumstances. The ancient Greeks wrote dramatic recollections of events that moved audiences of the time and to this day in practically every discipline that has emerged since then. But, there were no motion pictures to reclaim those texts. Then, Shakespeare entered the picture with an equal fervor for casting light on the matters of his day. Presently, we submit to the same appetite for literary escape with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, probably as eagerly as the Greeks and the British did in the early days of the art. In those times as it continues to be today, the stage was the medium for the written script. I venture to guess that audiences had their preferences for certain actors and theatres when reading the written play was not a viable option nor a preference. Perhaps, it may be that reading the plot in the comfort of a familiar setting with pleasant music or refreshment is the reason why some people opt for this method of entertainment. Indeed, the pace of a book or the flash of color and splash of sound in a film is what draws fans to each particular venue. So, an author's style or an actor's appeal may be the reasons why people turn to different sources of entertainment, including the online variety. I suppose radio producers had the same challenges in their respective field that could be incorporated into this topic. – L:Freire 3 years ago
  • Adaptation theory says that a film can do anything a book can do - it just does it in different ways. For example, first-person narration in a book might be translated in film via sound editing to an internal monologue. I don't really understand this as a valid concern because books, despite what people commonly think, are also a visual medium (consider font, illustrations, formatting, inflection, quotes, etc.) – KateBowen 3 years ago

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