In this day and age of Hollywood (or Sweden) making every other book into a film it’s all but impossible to be completely left to your own imagination or interpretation of the characters on the page. While this does leave open the argument of the purity of literature and how best it is to leave a book be, we can not deny the gains to be had from such events. But what of quality?
There are few films created from works of fiction which left me moved and grateful for the new rendering while still others leave me quite baffled, particularly when it comes to casting (Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon? Really?!). I am not a purist when it comes to communication of the book into a different medium, but nor am I sold that this is such a good idea. After all, books should be written because the story needs to be told on the page, right?
This is all leading me up to the discussion of the film adaptation of “The Road”. Eventually I might do one on “Lovely Bones” should I convince myself to see the movie, but for now I’m stuck on this one. First: I LOVED the book. Like, cried my whole way through it, moved beyond words, immediately went out and bought it because it’s an important enough book that I HAD TO OWN IT kind of love. Second: I love Viggo Mortensen. And the movie got a solid “meh” from me. It wasn’t because of poor acting or a bad screenplay, but because of where the source of power in the text rested. The book, should you not be familiar, has a startling lack of grammatical annotations. The language was rich within its sparseness and the lack of tags like quotation marks and commas were noticed right off. Basically, that all led to me feeling immersed in a new experience. For all intents and purposes it was foreign and jarring in a way that left me clinging to the characters and their very heart rending plight.
The director did an admirable job in unsettling the viewer with the nuclear winter he demonstrated, but the truth is it did not disquiet me overmuch. While discussing it with a friend I came to the conclusion this was because we’re so visually jaded now. There are few things left to be done upon the screen (truth be told I can not even begin to guess at what’s left to do there) and so the notion of feeling jarred and thrown into something wholly new is all but impossible to convey in the same manner McCarthy’s prose managed. The mediums are of course different, but when a quality that makes a work thoroughly unique and outstanding can not be translated to another medium I wonder at the wisdom in attempting to do so.
I will say, however, a line in the book that was delivered through narrative in the film was delivered with such aplomb and mastery that I dissolved into a puddle of tears. A man and a boy are on a journey together, walking, foraging for food, starving and, when necessary, defening themeslves from the bands of cannibals roaming the land and this realization is shared: “”He knew only that his child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.”
What are your thoughts on putting books into movie format? Any favorites? Ones that irked?