Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Novels in the Hands of Hollywood

It just drives me mad when people think a movie based on a book is amazing and perfect and genius, without having ever read the book, or worse, when the movie deters starkly away from the book. I hate it when directors get all the acclaim for a movie-based-on-a-book, and no one gives any credit to the guy who wrote the book in the first place.

Ok, so I'm being completely over the top here because there are many movies out there that I didn't/don't know were books first. No one can help that, no one can know everything.

But it still drives me nuts to know how good a book is, and then have everyone give radical acclaim to the movie - does no one read anymore?

What has started this rampage for me is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, later cinematised by Stanley Kubrick. I'm currently reading A Clockwork Orange and it's an incredible experience. It's full of uncommon and often nonsensical language that must be decoded. It's got very serious direction and motivation and message, as well as a Lolita-like reader manipulation. Though it apparently was never Burgess's favourite novel (one he, in fact, wishes were not his most popular), it is an incredibly well thought-out, clear and absolutely appalling novel. It kinda gets you in the guttiwuts, real horrorshow.

Now, I have no problem with novels being turned into films, per se. Though I think it most often ruins the book (which is annoying, but more depressingly, it usually sends the book into Book Oblivion for the mass public), it can often be done well, and it makes an interesting supplement after the book is read. And I'm not gonna lie, the movies were often enormous lifesavers in high school when I'd never gotten around to reading the book before test day.

And as far as A Clockwork Orange is concerned, the movie was interesting and disgusting and equally manipulative (which is evident from all the moronic IMDB comments saying, "totally awesome gang rapes and neat fights!" "This film is my all-time favorite because it's so awesome and Alex is so sweet and crazy!".) Now, it's been years since I've seen the movie, thankfully, for I am able to read the book without seeing Malcolm McDowell's face on fifteen year old Alex (what was up with that anyway, sending in a man to do a boy's job?). But the truth is, Kubrick took his movie far from the direction of the book, even changing the ending, which by far is the worst cinematic crime one can commit against a book, though to be fair, he was using the US release of the book for his screenplay which also changed the ending, much to Burgess's chagrin, because Burgess's ending was ironically too "optimistic", and Kubrick didn't even realise there was another version out there with the original ending, which in my opinion is far more pessimistic than the new ending - but I won't give anything else away - and I believe this is unfair to the man who wrote the book in the first place.

But this happens all the time. What drives me the most nuts isn't so much this in and of itself, because it is almost always the way it goes when novels-go-movie. What annoys me is when people go absolutely bananas over the movie, calling it "genius", "perfect", "the most brilliant film of all time", when it's not an accurate adaptation of the original novel or even the filmmaker's to begin with! Kubrick wasn't genius because he directed A Clockwork Orange - the best parts of the movie are the parts directly quoted from the book. Kubrick was a genius because of many other things, almost completely cinemagraphic, but not because of the story of A Clockwork Orange. He didn't do that, people. Another less poplular guy did that. Can we give the poor penniless writer some credit, please?

Ok, so I think I'm over my little tyrade now. I just had to get that off my chest. I love books; defending them is like defending my mother or little brother.

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