Rita Lopes

when books become movies

Like many people, I love cinema. I also love books. Maybe even more—not sure. Since I was a child, I’d spend hours surrounded by books. My mom says when I was a toddler I used to wake up extremely early (that ship has sailed) so in order to win her and my dad an extra hour or two of snooze time, they’d leave a pile of books at the food of my bed for when I woke up. Apparently, that would keep me happy for a couple of hours after waking up and I’d only call them or cry out for attention once I’d gone through all the books.

My love affair with books grew with me, and around my teenage years I was reading an average of 1 to 2 books a week (on top of everything else that kept me busy, like all the sports).

It comes as no surprise, then, that whenever I realise a film is going to be done about one of the books I read and loved, I become a tiny pool of eager anticipation. You see, I’m also an optimist and regardless of how many times movies prove to suck in comparison to the novels they’re based off of, I’ll always hold hope that that one will be good and do the author’s story justice.

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Whenever I think of movie adaptations of books, three movies (one very recent) come to mind. I’m not a stickler to the cause that movies must always strictly follow whatever is in their written counterpart. Sometimes, it’s just not going to play well on screen. With that in mind, I’m a fan of appropriately done adaptations that remain true to the underlying tone of the original story, even if some parts of said story are altered (read: adapted) to suit a different medium.

chocolat (2000)

I don’t know for sure when, exactly, I read the book (released in 1999) or when I got to see Chocolat, the film (released in 2000). I do, however, remember that those two events in my life had no relation and were separated by a few years.

I remember really liking the book (I read more books by Joanne Harris after Chocolat, which I think was the first one of hers that I read). When I saw the movie, the story came back to me quietly, as the film unfolded before my eyes. The feeling was all there, I remember thinking.

Where movies about books are concerned, I thought this was a really good one. Not everything was the same, but it all made sense. Specifically, the ending of the movie isn’t exactly the same as in the book, but I think it did it justice nonetheless. I finished watching it with a sense of not having been disappointed. Of course, the presence of Juliette Binoche as Vianne, and Johnny Depp as Roux didn’t hurt in the slightest.

I watched this movie again more recently, and it seems to have withstood the test of time. Sure, it’s old-ish, but it was still rather pleasurable to watch 🙂

ender’s game (2013)

The experience of reading Ender’s Game (1985) and then watching the film was completely different from what I described above. The book is incredible. Easily one of my favourite books ever. The story is amazing, the characters well developed, the twists and turns second to none.

When I first heard a movie was in the making I couldn’t contain my excitement and I was very, very, eager for it to be released. I had such high hopes. I mean, it read as a great potential movie anyway! Of course, I’m not a screenplay writer, nor a director, and I could be totally wrong when I say it looked so easy to turn into a movie! However, as a spectator, I was very disappointed.

For a movie that didn’t even reach the 2-hour mark, it felt so incomplete that for anyone who’d not read the book it wouldn’t be possible to understand most of the context and the nuances that make this a great story. All in all it was a wasted opportunity, the way I see it. I’d have preferred a TV mini series over that sorry excuse for an adaptation.

the little prince (2015)

Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to say when I first had contact with The Little Prince book. It’s my mom’s favourite book so I feel it’s been a part of my life since… well, since I can remember. It was a story that was always there, whether in the form of a book, or an image, a quote or a toy. Between my family and I we’ve owned multiple copies of this book, in Portuguese, French (one has to read the original whenever possible!), and English. The latest addition to our collection was The Little Prince Delux Pop-Up (it’s totally magic!).

This one had me worried, as a film adaptation. I couldn’t fathom how the big screen would do justice to this particular book. Never for a second did I think of not going to the cinema for it, but I wasn’t convinced it would be good. When I went to see it, many had already and the reviews were (mostly) good, so I allowed myself to build up my expectations accordingly.

In the end, I’m of the opinion that it was a well-done adaptation. Particularly, because the original story was told through a story (there are layers here, people!) instead of a more linear approach! Like I said above regarding Chocolat, the most important thing for me was the feeling that the underlying tone and sentiment were there. And that did not disappoint me. And there were many tears. I think not only for the movie’s story, but also for the satisfaction that the original classic wasn’t murdered in Hollywoodesque terms.

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