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When the movie is not like the book: faithfulness in adaptations

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The 2018 movies Crazy Rich Asians, It, Black Panther, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Mary Poppins Returns, and Beautiful Boy have very little in common with one another, except the fact that all are based on popular books. More than half of the top 20 highest grossing films in the UK from 2007-2016 were based on books or comic books. The Publishers Association estimated that movies based on books make 43% more than movies based on original screenplays. However, for moviegoers who have read the source material, there is often the risk of disappointment in going to see such adaptations. What if the film fails to live up to the book? It is quite natural to want the movie to be true to the book, and surely it is not unreasonable to judge the film in part on how well it meets those expectations.On the other hand, people often say one should judge a movie on its own merits, and pay no attention to matters of faithfulness to the book. The best movies are not necessarily the ones that follow the source material most closely. Careful attention to the source material can make a movie plodding or dull. Sometimes what works on the page simply does not work on the screen.It is possible, however, to reconcile these two lines of thought. To do so, we need to think about some of the different ways that a film can be (or fail to be) faithful to its source. A film can be true to the story of the book; a film can capture some or all of the main characters accurately; a film can realize fully the book’s tone or mood; and a film can be true to the themes of the book. Some of these kinds of faithfulness are good and important in judging the movie; others are not.Let’s consider stories. Some adaptations take great pains to make sure that the films follow the story of the original very closely – that the events of the movie are the same as the book, sometimes even preserving the same dialogue, such as The Hunger Games (2012); Gone Girl  (2014), and the BBC mini-series adaptation. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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