Wednesday 7 September 2011

Another Wednesday morning...

Autumn is definitely in the air, and with it comes the urge to make something, so while I write and enjoy my hot tea, I'm also enjoying the smell of the homemade granola that is cooling on the counter - yum!

I finished Elizabeth George's Payment in Blood and it did finally "grab" me.  It was very good, and I enjoy a well-written British mystery, even if it's written by an author from California.  I'm now reading The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre for my book group.  I've read it before, but it's great, so I thought it would be a good book club selection.  We have many copies available at the library, so I started out with a library copy, but as I was rereading it, I realized that this was the kind of book I would want to read again and to recommend to people, so I went out to the used bookstores downtown on Monday and found a trade paperback copy (lighter and mine!), which is what I'm reading now.  I hope my book club ladies like it, but even if they don't enjoy it as much as I do, I'm sure it will generate much discussion.

I wanted to talk about the experience of watching a movie based on a book.  I'm thinking about this now because I'm planning to go to see "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" at the Princess Cinema tomorrow night.  When I saw the listing, I was quite excited, since we read the book of the same name by Lisa See for the book club some time ago and really enjoyed it.  It is the story of two girls in 19th century China who are determined to be "old sames" for life by tradition. They endure many of life's trials and share many of life's joys together through secret communication by sending messages to one another on a fan using "nu shu", believed to be the only written language that was used exclusively by women.  Through one miscommunication and misunderstanding, their whole relationship may be ruined, and it is up to the two women to work this out.  I may have the details wrong as it's been a long time since I read the book, but this is the gist of it.  Well, I knew it was being made into a film, and was thrilled to see it playing this week at the early show.  Then I read the description of the film, and realized that there are two generations of women portrayed in the film, one in the 19th century and one contemporary.  I didn't remember that being in the book, but I went to my bookshelf to find the book and check.  The book is only set in the 19th century, so the film, as I read further in the description, is "loosely based" on the book.  When I read that, I reconsidered going to see it, but I think I will still go, even though it will be different than the book.  This is just one of the dilemma that you could face in these types of situations.  Here are a few scenarios: 1.  you've read and enjoyed the book, then the movie comes out and it's a direct adaptation of the book; 2.  you've read and enjoyed the book, then the movie that is "loosely based on" or "inspired by" the book comes out;  3.  you've read the book but didn't enjoy (or understand) it, then the movie comes out and it's starring your favourite actor(s);  or 4.  you haven't read the book, but have been meaning to do so, then the movie comes out.  In the first scenario, you have to be prepared to accept the film in and of itself, and resist the temptation to compare the book and film adaptation.  An example is "The French Lieutenant's Woman" excellent film adaptation of an excellent book.  This is not, however, always the case.  Likewise for the second scenario, but this may be a bit easier than in the first since you already expect it to be different from the book.  An example of this is "Simon Birch", which was loosely based on A Prayer for Owen Meany.  In the third scenario, you can make the choice based on the merits of the actor(s) rather than the story, or you can hope that the adaptation will appeal to you more than the written work or be easier to understand.  I've found that this has happened to me when I've watched the film adaptations of Henry James novels, in particular "The Wings of the Dove", a fabulous film but a novel which I read and did not understand at all.  I think this is also true with film adaptations of Shakespearean plays, which are often very popular because they are more accessible than reading the plays.  The fourth scenario, not having read the book but wanting to see the film, is difficult because I have to decide if I want to read the book first or see the movie and then read the book.  I faced this when the adaptation of Of Mice and Men with John Malkovich was released in theatres, but I hadn't read the book.  It's a tough call in any of these situations, because, let's face it, the film version is almost always a disappointment when compared with the book.  So I try to always remember that a film is a different medium that a book, and so each must be enjoyed and/or judged on its own merits.  Films are visual where books are intellectual/cerebral(?), films rely on the skill and art of actors and acting where books rely on the skill and art of the writer and writing.  I'm sure there are other differences, but I'm running out of time, so suffice it to say that films and books are bound to be different by their very nature and essence, and must be judged as separate entities.  I think I will still go and see "Snowflower" and try to enjoy it for what it is.

That's all for now!

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