Thursday, March 10, 2011

Books to Movies: What Adaptations Have Gotten Under Your Skin?

Yesterday, I got in trouble by saying that I hated Joe Wright's version of Pride and Prejudice (that's the one with Keira Knightley).

I have a screenwriting background and I'm now a novelist. From a technical perspective, I completely understand the difficulties and challenges of adapting anything from the page to the screen. There's basically no way to do it without cutting things or changing things around to suit the visual medium. But as a general lover of stories, I have very, very rarely found myself able to compare the book to the movie and NOT come to the conclusion that "the book was better." And Pride and Prejudice just happens to be one of my favorite books of all time.

I know there are people who not only disagree with me about this movie, but who love it. It was even a critically-acclaimed, Oscar-nominated film. But I'm just going to go ahead and point out why I feel the way I do, even if it means that the wrath of the Internet shall hail upon me:

- Keira Knightley is not Elizabeth Bennett. Elizabeth Bennett is a girl who is not known as a "great beauty" (like her sister, Jane), and who in fact gets Mr. Darcy's scorn for her looks in the beginning. She is, instead, a girl who becomes infinitely more beautiful once you know her spirit. Keira Knightley has never been anything but drop-dead gorgeous right off the bat. The thought of anyone scorning her looks just comes across as laughable.

- Oymygod that first proposal in the rain scene. That scene makes me cringe. The way Elizabeth looks at Darcy with such longing...just no, no, no. As a character, Elizabeth truly hates Darcy at that point. Loathes him. And I just don't feel like this comes across at all with the way the scene was done which, in turn, makes the story's conclusion that much less satisfying.

- This is totally personal and has nothing to do with the film's production at all but I just cannot see anyone being as perfect a Mr. Darcy as Colin Firth. Sorry, Matthew Macfadyen.

That being said, I have to admit that the movie was beautifully shot.

What books-to-movie adaptations have gotten under your skin?


  1. You're quite mistaken regarding the Lizzy's looks. Jane Austen makes it clear that all the Bennet sisters are pretty (except Mary - the only plain one) and that Lizzy is second only to Jane in this regard.
    Miss Bingley at one point remarks that they had heard of Lizzy as a "reputed beauty" before they first met her. The narrator also tells us that Mr. Collins had heard of the Bennet sisters' beauty before he arrived.

    It would perhaps be nice if Austen had set out to show that only inner beauty really counts. But she didn't. The two sisters for whom things turn out the best also the two most beautiful ones.

  2. It's true that Caroline Bingley remarks that they had heard of Lizzy as a "reputed beauty" but she only does so to dispel the rumor. Darcy follows with “She, a beauty? I should as soon call her a mother a wit!”

    In my interpretation of the book, it’s not that Elizabeth isn’t pretty. It’s that she’s someone who can’t automatically be called gorgeous. Hence Darcy’s initial remarks.

  3. Darcy's initial reaction seems like it was mostly about being in a place he didn't want to be and him wanting to get Bingley off his back, so I don't take it at face value. And what Miss Bingley says about any other female will always be suspect. :-)
    Everything said by the narrator in the text points towards Lizzy being beautiful, imo. Just not quite as much as Jane.
    As Rosamund Pike is a very beautiful woman I don't think that caused any problems in the film at all.
    ... and if you ever visit any gossip sites (I applaud you if you don't) you'll find many, many people scorning Keira Knightley's looks. To the extent that Darcy's comments appear almost complimentary by comparison.

  4. I see where you're coming from. I think we're just interpreting the text differently. :-)

    That's funny what you say about Keira Knightley. I personally can't think of her as anything but drop-dead gorgeous, but it's interesting that not everyone agrees with me.

    Also, I appreciate you reading, commenting, and debating. So thank you for that, VoR!

  5. I liked the Kiera P&P, but you're right--there is only one Mr. Darcy, and it is Colin Firth!

    As for adaptations that get under my skin ... I LOVED the book Sphere (Michael Crichton), but I won't even attempt to watch the movie of it. I heard it was terrible, and watching an amazing story turn to dirt onscreen would just make me sad!

  6. Firth for life, Lynn!

    I haven't read or seen 'Sphere,' but from what I've heard of the movie, I think you're probably smart to stay away.

  7. Great debate on P&P! Have you seen the BBC production of "Persuasion," with Ciarán Hinds? I think it's wonderful.

    Most book-to-film adaptations disappoint me a little, but there's one instance I can think of where, IMO, the film surpassed the book, and that's (the original Swedish film version of) "Let the Right One In."

    The screenwriter did an extraordinary job of cutting to the heart of the story much more so than the book does; for me, the book has too many subplots that detract from the main relationship.

  8. Yes! I do like that version of 'Persuasion' and I really liked the 2007 one with Sally Hawkins too.

    I haven't seen 'Let the Right One In' yet (I'm not great with horror movies), but I heard wonderful things about it. I might have to read it/see it now.

  9. So, are you like living in my brain? I couldn't stand to watch the movie w/ Keira Knightly (there, I said it) for the same reasons. I have to agree with everything you said here pretty much 100%.
    But I'm such a purist about P&P bc it's one of my favorites books of all time and also, I've watched the BBC version a thousand times and nothing, nothing can ever live up to the BBC version. I can quote the lines and everything. It's pretty sad...and wonderful;) My husband always teases me when Firth comes on the screen.

  10. Jenny's sentiments sound very familiar...