My Top Ten Favourite Movies Based on Books

lord-of-the-rings

I contemplated using this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme about movies to just talk about movies that weren’t book-related, but then I realised that a sizeable chunk of my favourite movies consists of book adaptations anyway. These aren’t necessarily the best book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen, but they’re the ones I love re-watching. Continue reading

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“Put Up Thy Sword!”: Why I Love the 1996 Romeo + Juliet

romeo-juliet-beach

This week’s Classic Remarks prompt was a difficult one to write. The theme was adaptations of classic books, and of course I spent most of this week cycling through my favourite films, desperately trying to figure out which one I love the most. Of course one of the first things that leapt to mind was Jane Austen, but since I’ve spent a lot of time banging on about Austen adaptations already, I thought I’d branch out and discuss something different (I know, I’m also surprised I managed to supress my natural love of obsessing over Austen). Naturally, my mind leapt to a director who’s had a controversial relationship with the few classic novels he’s adapted. Continue reading

Adapting Austen: A Roundup of My Favourite Austen Adaptations

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I’m a sucker for a good Jane Austen adaptation. In fact, I think I’ve seen just about every one in existence, apart from those awkward 1970s BBC ones that are about as exciting as cohabitation with Mr Collins. So, naturally, this week’s Classic Remarks topic is right down my alley. But since I’ve been watching Austen adaptations since I was about thirteen, it’s kind of tough to pick my favourite. So, instead, I’ve decided to group my selections to cover all the bases you might use for evaluating an Austen adaptation. Continue reading

Warlords, Vampires, and Spatial Genetic Multiplicity: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Dracula PosterWarning! It is highly recommended that potential viewers of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version of Dracula are fully equipped with a few necessary items. These include: (1) the ability to follow an incredibly confusing plotline; (2) a sketchy knowledge of Bram Stoker’s novel; and (3) a plentiful supply of cold water (buckets or cold showers both acceptable). Also, this review contains spoilers.

The fact that Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is littered with eroticism and religious imagery is nothing new. It’s informed the way we write and perform the vampire myth over the course of an entire century. But in Coppola’s 1992 adaptation of the book (‘adaptation’ is here used in the loosest possible sense) this is taken to a whole new level.

‘Bram’s’?

This seems an obvious place to start, but the way that Coppola chooses to present his film to audiences is interesting. The film’s full title is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but readers of the book may find themselves a touch perplexed; apart from the characters the film seems to have little in common with Stoker’s story. A case of postmodern irony, or just a marketing strategy? I leave it for you to decide. The opening shots present viewers with Dracula’s (Gary Oldman) backstory, something which Stoker only hints at in the novel. Continue reading

Things I Thought About Before I Watched ‘Shakespeare Lives!’

Shakespeare FireworksThis year, the world is going Shakespeare-mad. Or, at least, that’s what British tourism companies and theatre troupes the world over are hoping as we mark four hundred years since the Bard shuffled off this mortal coil, and about four hundred and fifteen years since he wrote the phrase “shuffled off this moral coil”. Last Saturday, the 23rd of April, was the official date, which by all accounts was met with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for football matches or the final episode of The Great British Bake-Off.

In Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company held a two-hour event to celebrate the work of Britain’s best-known playwright. As I settled in to watch a show which featured British theatre royalty (and, indeed, some actual royalty too), I began thinking about the way that Shakespeare has settled into our collective understanding of literature, culture, and art. Continue reading

War, Peace, and a Scandal or Two: War and Peace (2016)

War and Peace 2016Haven’t seen this adaptation yet? Beware of the spoilers!

Another year, another massive costume drama from the BBC.

I spent the latter part of last year nursing a deep but abiding impatience for the premiere of War and Peace, Andrew Davies’ latest adaptation of a classic novel. I was thrilled; not only had I actually already read the source material (which, when the source material happens to be a 1,300 page book, is definitely something to celebrate) but I was, for the first time in my life, actually in the UK at the same time as it premiered, and could therefore avoid the two-year delay which I would have faced were I still back in Australia. Naturally, I was excited. Add to that the fact that Davies was writing the script. Seeing as I’d loved his adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Wives and Daughters, I was pretty sure I’d be pleased with just about anything he decided to do with Tolstoy.

There was, understandably, a lot of hype around this particular adaptation. Big names were involved, budgets were large, and the source material was felt to be particularly timely: the fallout from war, the ruthlessness and carelessness of too-powerful men, and the sense of a society and a world on the brink of major upheaval. Continue reading

A Lit Major At The Movies: I Capture The Castle (2003)

I Capture the Castle film posterI Capture The Castle was never going to be an easy film to make. The book is written as the journal of a young girl in 1930s England. The plot is bog-standard, almost on the side of boring (handsome young men come into neighbourhood, pretty young women pursue handsome young men, pairing-up ensues). Considering that the true magic of the book lies in the youthful simplicity and honesty of Cassandra Mortmain’s voice, making a film version seems like a bit of a tricky endeavour.

All this considered, then, the 2003 movie actually does a decent job capturing the tone and style of the book. As you might expect, there are lots of shots of green English landscapes, with the Mortmain’s castle as a centrepiece. Visually, there are some very pretty moments as we explore the English countryside and the recesses of Cassandra’s imagination. Continue reading

A Lit Major At The Movies: Mansfield Park (1999)

Mansfield Park 1999Last year I re-read Mansfield Park. And made a surprising discovery.

I actually liked it. All those years of avoidance, staring at it on the shelf and wondering whether it would ever do anything more other than round out my collection of Austen’s work – what a waste.

So when I found myself loving the book, I naturally wondered whether perhaps my younger self had also been unfair on the movie adaptations of the novel. In particular, the 1999 version directed by Patricia Rozema. So I tracked it down and gave it another go. And what I found was, if not the most enjoyable viewing experience (or, indeed, true-to-the-book adaptation), at least a thought-provoking one.

The 1999 version of Mansfield Park is a darker, more sombre version of Austen than those made earlier in the decade. This turn-of-the-millennium Austen hints at the changes that are going to begin appearing in Austen adaptations of the noughties: an interest in the grungy, the suppressed; in sex, and in the characters who frequently hover on the periphery of Austen’s narratives (domestic servants and, in this particular adaptation, slaves on the sugar plantations owned by the Bertram family). Although we never really see either slaves or servants, these individuals are conspicuous in their absence.

Continue reading

A Lit Major At The Movies: Cold Comfort Farm (1995)

ColdComfortFarm1995The Nineties seem to have been a bit of a golden decade for book-to-film adaptations. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare all got the star treatment in this decade. Perhaps a little less known, but nonetheless well-loved, is the 1995 adaptation of Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, which I read a little while ago. It stars Kate Beckinsdale as Flora Poste, the nosy, recently orphaned young woman who goes to live with her strange family at Cold Comfort Farm, and turn their lives upside down.

Interestingly enough, Beckinsdale went on to play Austen’s Emma in the 1996 adaptation, one year after Cold Comfort Farm was released. Whether she got this role based on her role as Flora Poste, the twentieth century’s Emma Woodhouse, or whether she was filming both films simultaneously (or one after the other?), it’s an interesting crossover. And her character in this movie is indeed similar to Emma Woodhouse, although Beckinsdale plays Emma with a bit more of a twinkle, a lightness which is not present in her portrayal of Flora, which is a little more understated. Continue reading

A Lit Major at the Movies: Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca 1940Spoilers ahead!

Who doesn’t love a bit of Hitchcock now and again? Although the director is probably best-known for iconic films such as Psycho and The Birds, Hitchcock actually made his debut in Hollywood with what has been patronisingly dubbed a ‘woman’s film’. Having read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca a few months ago, I decided to return to the film version that I’d absolutely loved when I’d first seen it (pre-reading the book, much to my shame).

Rebecca is a controversial book in many ways, and it’s perhaps inevitable that the film should be so too. As with du Maurier’s novel, the heroine of the story is a young, nameless woman working as a companion to a vulgar older lady, who meets and marries a mysterious widower and goes to live on his estate in the south of England. The film captures the book’s wonderful opening lines in an iconic way: as the film begins, we hear the heroine (played by Joan Fontaine) say: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”. She takes us on a dream-tour of Manderley’s front drive. Continue reading