Sunday, July 22, 2007

My favorite literary adaptations...

I mentioned all that was wrong with the unlikable The Scarlet Letter. So, as an antidote, here are some of my faves that I think to a great job of conveying the emotional truths of the books they represent. (Is that a nice way of saying not all of them to stick to the very letter of their source material, but they're such good movies, I don't care?)

•I've said before, Little Women was one of those books of my childhood I could never slog my way through. I always felt there was something wrong with me for just not getting this American classic. Then I saw this movie. Somehow it made the book come alive for me in the way my multiple attempts over the years at the first two or three chapters hadn't. I found out all the good stuff I was missing — and eagerly took up the book once more.

•I hold nothing against Keira Knightley's version, except, perhaps, that it tried to cram six hours' worth of story in a two hour movie. My favorite literary adaptations are often miniseries (like this BBC gem from back in the days when the A&E network aired programs that I actually watched) because they can take the time to flesh out important parts of a book that a feature film just can't take the time to. Besides, there may be nothing wrong with Matthew Macfadyen, but Colin Firth will always be "my" Mr. Darcy.

•I began watching these movies right around the same time as I was reading L.M. Montgomery's books for the first time, so they are irrevocably intertwined in my mind. Even when these films take liberties (and the second one does collapse several books into one story, combining characters and moving events around in time), they still get the emotional heart of the books absolutely right. This, unfortunately, cannot be said for the third segment of this so-called film "trilogy." I don't have the space here to describe how awful it was, but suffice it so say, I wondered why they bothered calling it "Anne of Green Gables" at all. (Actually, that isn't true, I know they did it because they knew loyal "Anne" fans like me would watch it — once, at least.)


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