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Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Guest Post: Books Versus Movies by S.L. Wallace

Today I have a guest blogger, S.L. Wallace. Here is her bio from her Amazon author page: "S.L. Wallace is a teacher and life long writer who is a descendant of the famous William Wallace. Like him, she believes in freedom and independence. Unlike him, she fights her battles with the pen, most recently taking a political stand against recent changes in government at both local and state levels.
The Reliance on Citizens trilogy is her first published series."
 Check out her blog, Crossroads of Humanity, and her novels. Heart Of Humanity will be available soon.


Books Versus Movies

How many times have you heard someone complain, “But that wasn't anything like the book,” after seeing a movie based on a book? Often, I think the problem isn't with the movie itself but rather that the reader has a fabulous imagination. And that, my friend, is not really a problem. When settling in to watch a movie that's based on a book, I try to remind myself that books and films are two entirely different mediums. In short, I try to enjoy it for what it is. Some movies fall flat, in my humble opinion, but others go far beyond my expectations.

I'm a teacher by day so I'll focus on two amazingly well done movies based on kids books.

The first is Warner Brothers, A Little Princess, released in 1995, with director Alfonso Cuaron and starring Liesel Matthews. It's based on the novel, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published in 1905. I read this novel as a child and was completely blown away. Because I enjoyed it so much, I followed up with The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Years later, I was lucky enough to discover a copy of the book, Sara Crewe, at a local library book sale. It's Hodgson's serialized 1888, novel upon which A Little Princess is based.

A number of films have been based on A Little Princess, the most famous one may be the Shirley Temple version. As a child, I'll admit I thought that version was enjoyable, but Warner Brothers took the story to an entirely different level. Instead of placing the story in London, they moved Miss Minchin's boarding school to New York City. I am one who enjoys original stories, and I don't particularly like it when Hollywood feels the need to Americanize foreign films or place everything in America. But Warner Brothers didn't end there. They split the story into three parts that added complexity and depth. When Sara tells the other girls stories from India, we are transported to India along with them, and when she receives letters from her father, we are taken to the battlefields of World War 1.

Was the movie identical to the book? Not at all. Creative liberties were most definitely taken. In the novel, Sara Crewe's father isn't sent off to war; he reportedly dies of jungle fever. But the main themes of the story remain intact. This is a story of a child who is, at first, treated like royalty and later, due to circumstances beyond her control, is neglected, starved and abused by the same woman who once thought her so special, and through it all, Sara perseveres because of her strong sense of self worth.

Another great kids movie based on an equally well done novel is Holes, released in 2003, with director Andrew Davis and starring Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight and Shia LaBeouf. It is based on the novel, Holes, by Louis Sachar. This novel is actually three stories rolled into one. Up front, it is the story of Stanley Yelnats who is wrongfully accused of theft and sent to a boys' juvenile detention center out in the middle of the desert. Every day, the inmates are sent to dig holes in the dry lake bed beneath the hot desert sun. According to the warden, this is to help them build character. Actually, she is hoping to uncover treasure stolen from her great great grandfather by Kissin' Kate Barlow, an outlaw who lived in those parts long ago. Both the novel and the movie seamlessly intertwine the story of Camp Green Lake from long ago with that of the boys' detention center today. In addition, we also get to hear the story of Stanley's great great great grandfather who immigrated to America after his heart was broken by the featherbrained, Myra Menke. Take some wild onions, add a few fictional deadly spotted yellow lizards and a dash of canned peaches to the mix and you get an amazingly great story.

So...how did the movie compare? It was one of the truest accounts of a book being transformed into a movie that I've ever seen. Why is this? That's easy. After rejecting the first screenplay which deviated too much from the book and was far too dark for a children's movie, the studio hired Louis Sachar, the author, to write the final screenplay. He was also on set every day of filming and had a cameo appearance as one of the people who buys onion juice from Sam the onion man.

So there you have it. What makes a book transition well to film? Hire a screenwriter who believes in staying true to the meaning of the book if not to the exact storyline, and keep the story interesting and intelligent. The audience will appreciate it.

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I really appreciate S.L. for taking the time to post. I hope everyone enjoyed it. As always, leave comments and thanks for reading.

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