Thursday, 13 January 2011

Books on Film

I've watched three films in the last three nights, and each one of them was a book first. The typical reaction to good books becoming films is negative; fear mingled with contempt, turned up to panic levels by the tiniest glimmer of hope.

But I'm an optimist. Three bookfilms in a row, so at least one of them will be a success, I thought. But what do you call it when all three are awesome? Most book people hate bookfilms... am I too easily pleased? Please tell me.

Slaughterhouse 5

If I was asked which of my favourite authors was least filmable, I would say Vonnegut, every time. It's not that they couldn't be filmed, but that they would lose too much of what makes them special. None more so than S-5, my default answer to the favourite-book question.

But, despite the complete lack of SO IT GOES and the utter non-existence of the sounds of birds, this 1972 film captures the essense of the book, somehow. They ended it with fireworks on Tralfamadore, but I still loved it.

No Country For Old Men

This is a damn good film. I could watch it a dozen times, I think. It's harsh reality verses fiction, and harsh reality wins every time, and it still manages to be likable. It's sparse and beautiful and hardgoing and doesn't talk much and is hilarious and brutal ignores convention.

I've said all of those things about Cormac's books (apart from it's a damn good film), and so if I had to guess, I'd say this was a pretty accurate adaptation. I'll find out for sure when I get round to reading the damn thing.

Bright Young Things

Stephen Fry adapting Vile Bodies, using almost every great English actor who's young enough -- plus Peter O-flipping-Toole -- and it's still better than I expected. It's sadder than I remember the book being, just as funny, and far more beautiful than I managed to picture it.

The ending drags, or can't decide, or something. Nothing I read or see at the moment stops at the point I think it should stop, so maybe don't take this too seriously.

I honestly think I've covered all the bases: a book I know well, a book I've never read, and one I can't remember too well. Each film is great, in different ways. Seriously, am I too easily pleased? Or have I just got lucky with the adaptations I've picked recently?

What do you think about books on film?


  1. You captured my reaction to books being filmed exactly: "fear mingled with contempt, turned up to panic levels by the tiniest glimmer of hope". It was definitely my reaction to seeing there was a Slaughterhouse movie.

    Most of the time I'll enjoy the movie but not quite as much as the book, when I got to make the decision about look and sound, etc. There are movies I like better than the book, such as American Psycho and Lord of the Rings.

  2. No Country For Old Man is just like the movie. Eerily so. They did an awfully good job adapting it. I have a review of the book at

  3. I'm half and half. If it is done well... and done with the true spirit of the book in mind (Fight Club, American Psycho, The HP Series) I am a huge fan of seeing the movies. What I hate is when directors and screenwriters take HUGE liberties with works, just using the skeleton of a story... then shaping other elements to their preferences.

    But I do agree on A. Psycho. They hit it out of the park with that one. Glad to have found your blog! Looking forward to reading more.

  4. Do you know that Guillermo del toro wants to make a new adaptation of Slaughterhouse 5? Anyway the one existing is beautiful. I wrote a review have a look and tell me what you think of it.