November 12, 2011

Can adaptations ever be seen as a unique art form?

In October I wrote a review of the TV miniseries of The Thorn Birds. In response to my post, Lori from What Remains Now made a very interesting comment:

“I did enjoy the mini-series, but only because I viewed it as separate from the book. In fact, that's the way I typically enjoy any film adaptation...if I can separate the book and the film into "related" but not the "same" works of art.”

Lori makes a very good point. So often we over-analyze every detail of film adaptations and criticize the filmmakers for each oversight or omission, when perhaps we should allow the film to stand on its own.

Having said this, studios are very quick to capitalize on the popularity of bestselling books. Through their marketing strategies, we are given the impression that that the film will be true to the original. We are told that by watching the film we can relive our experience of reading the book, when in reality there is no guarantee that we will get this experience at all.

Filmmakers shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. They should not have the luxury of the additional revenue that comes with recreating a story that already has an established fan base, whilst at the same time imploring us to treat their creations as independent works of art.

On the other hand, publishers play the same game. I always find it a little disconcerting when a new edition of an old favourite is released with a movie poster emblazoned on the front cover. Even if the characters and plots of the film are completely different, publishers jump onto the Hollywood bandwagon and badge the original with images of the new.

Standing in my local Dymocks, I am drawn to the ‘Booklovers’ 101 Best Books’ section. A majority of the books have movie posters as their covers. I often wonder which came first. Did the film studios fight over the rights to a best-selling book, or did the book sales only reach their height after the release of the film adaptation?

I’ll do some investigating and will get back to you.

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