Wednesday, 18 August 2010

5 Great Novels That Are Also Great Movies

I'm a firm believer that books are always better than movies and that movies based on great novels can never live up to the original. However, once in a while there comes along a movie that turns out to be just as good - or even better - than the book it is based on. The following a just some examples.

Howl's Moving Castle 
Author: Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
Director & screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki (2004)

Few novels measure up to Jones' Howl's Moving Castle in originality and imagination. Combine that with the creativity of Miyazaki and you have a masterpiece.The movie is faithful to the original story in many ways, though skips some of the details. In my opinion, this doesn't take away from the quality of the movie, though I wouldn't want to miss the details in the book. The humorous story begins when Sophie, a scared and lonely young woman is bewitched into looking like and old lady. In order to rid herself of the curse she ends up in Howl's castle which never seems to stay in the same place, cleaning for Howl while he is out stealing young women's hearts.

Fight Club
Author: Chuck Palahniuk (1996)
Director: Davin Fincher Screenplay: Jim Uhls (1999)

I assume you have at least heard of this movie. Who could miss Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in this insane delusion that has come out of Palahniuks mind? However, not everyone knows that it was first a novel, which is just as deranged as the movie, but also just as good. There is no better way to describe it other than that it will blow your mind. Forget everything you know about life and throw yourself into the world where impulses and violence reign. Follow the protagonist into a decending spiral as he meets Tyler Durden and Marla Singer, starts Fight Club, quits his job and degenerates into being "Joe's boiling point". It is chaos. Exquisite, ludricrous chaos. And remember, the first rule of Fight Club is: You don't talk about Fight Club.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
Director: Peter Jackson Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh (2001)

There isn't much to say in introduction of this classic fantasy epic. There might be some controversy in saying that the movies are just at good as the books though. I agree that some parts are less successful (particularly, in my opinion, the actions of Faramir that taint the only character from the book able to resist the power of the ring). Yes, there are parts missing and other parts have been highlighted that were barely mentioned in the novel (cough - Arwen - cough). Yet, I adore these movies. The Fellowship of the Ring is my favourite since thay didn't have enough time to spoil anything yet. They're not the most faithful to the original novel, and to be honest, are least deserving of a spot on this list, yet I cannot make a list like this without mentioning The Lord of the Rings. I simply cannot.

Author: Patrick Süskind (1985)
Director: Tom Tykwer Screenplay: Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger, Tom Tykwer (2006)

Perfume is the story of evil incarnate. Not that Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was ever given a chance in life to become anything more than he did. Born by a mother who threw him away like garbage, raised by a woman who cared for nothing but money, working in the most dismal conditions imaginable. There is something special about Grenouille though. He has no smell. Instead he has the best sense of smell of any human being, and finds his calling in making perfumes - but not the watered-down refuse sold in shops by perfumers. No, the best scents in the world - that of beautiful women. Süskind's novel is disturbing, to say the least. The movie tries to accomplish the same, though falls somewhat short, in my opinion. It is still a great movie, in many ways worthy of its original.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass / Alice in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll (1865 & 1871)
Director: Tim Burton Screenplay: Lisa Woolverton (2010)


Now, Tim Burton's movie Alice in Wonderland isn't directly based on either of Lewis Carroll's books about Alice, yet I couldn't go without mentioning it. Tim Burton is my favourite director of all times, especially when he's working with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. So when he makes a movie with the characters from one of my favourite books, I'm not going to be too picky about details. In fact, I'm going to boldly claim that his movie is a great addition to the story from the novels. You're welcome to challenge that claim, but there it is. In Carroll's first novel we follow Alice in the classic story down the rabbit hole, where she shrinks and grows and shrinks again, and meets many strange and scary creatures. In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice goes through a mirror instead, and embarks on a similar kind of adventure. As a Math teacher, Carroll plays with logic in a most unexpected way. That is to say, he removes it completely. To be honest, I don't think Tim Burton has problems abandoning logic either. In other words, a match made in heaven!

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