The difference of course is the reader's imagination. Suddenly the beloved characters have been cast with an actor or actress who may or may not fit the mold of what they had pictured in their mind. Bibliophiles, such as myself, have to come to the realisation that the film will never be exactly the same, and that's okay.
There have been many times when book adaptions have gone right, bringing to life our most beloved worlds to create a visual masterpiece on the big screen, and most times, there have been significant differences between the two. The adaptations that work, are the ones that successfully create the world described in the book and bring the characters to life.
Here are my top 5 book to movie adaptations.
Original Novel by L. Frank Baum
The first scenes of the movie set at Dorothy's home farm are in black and white. It isn't until she reaches the land over the rainbow that the film is in colour, transporting the viewers to the magical land of Oz. There are several differences on film in comparison from the novel, including some interesting characters, yet the adventure is not lost in the adaptation.
Victor Fleming's decision to keep Dorothy's home town in the drab form of black and white made the magic of Oz a greater impact for the viewers. Lovers of the story will know how wonderful the world of Oz is, and Fleming brought it to life in stunning colour. The adventurous characters, albeit a touch different, were as engaging as they are in the book, capturing the imagination of many.
Of course, The Wizard of was a musical film, adding another layer to the already lovable story. The song Over The Rainbow won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and is known widely, even to those who are not lovers of the film.
The Yellow Brick Road is almost close enough to touch, ready for you to skip down it. The Wicked Witch gets under your skin. The Scarecrow, The Tinman and The Cowardly Lion come to life, and all teach us a valuable lesson. There is no place like Oz and no place like the world of L. Frank Baum.
Perhaps it was the casting of Judy Garland who made Dorothy real enough to engage us all, or was it just the glorious adventure she found. Either way, the movie adaptation is one of my all time facourites.
Original Novel by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about dreams coming true, and none of that is lost in Mel Stuart's 1971 movie adaptation which was renamed, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As a child, the novel taught me to believe. It taught me that honesty and kindness will always win. The on screen version of Charlie was just as thought provoking and stupendous. A child of poverty, Charlie's love for his family and his fight to remain positive was not lost on the big screen.
Stuart's adaptation was a musical version, and in fact nominated for the Academy award for best original score. Most of the lyrics were those written by Dahl in the original novel.
Possibly the most incredible scene is that of the Chocolate Factory and the chocolate river. Children everywhere went weak at the knees at the visual amazement that a river could actually be chocolate. Each detail of the scenery looked edible and added to the magic of Willy Wonka. The novel came to life at that very moment and that's why this adaptation worked.
Gene Wilder exuded Wonka. He was the quirky and crazy man from the book, but the movie itself was not received well by the author because of the addition of Slugworth as a villain and the Fizzy Lifting Drinks Scene. The latter, I would have to agree with, although overall, this adaptation is one to beat.
Original Novel by J.K Rowling
There are so many characters and so many story lines that there were sure to be a few cut scenes. In fact, some parts of the story were cut in the very early movies and then quickly thrown in just to make sense in the later installments. That said, the movies are a stand alone franchise. The casting for the films was spot on, and that would have been no easy feat seeing the actors were eleven when they started.
Although there were several directors involved with the series, their differences made each film its own. Some darker than others, the films are loved by many, just as the books are. Bringing to life such a detailed story could have easily failed, but the magic of the books isn't lost. One of the greatest things about Harry Potter is the setting, and the secret magical world felt so real on the big screen. The school of Hogwarts became a possibility. From the cupboard under the stairs, Diagon Alley, the sets of this film are possibly the single aspect that brings absolute finesse to this adaptation.
Topped off with an incredible original score from John Williams, Harry Potter's world feels real enough to touch. So Harry Potter makes the cut. The world of magic was brought to life, sparking the imagination of all ages, and will continue to do so for many generations to come.
Original Novel by Stephen King
The movie version of King's The Shining loses some of the ghostly characteristics, but overall is in my top book to screen adaptations for it's outstanding ability to scare the pants off you. There's something wonderful about a psychic thriller, and Jack Nicholson has terrified us to no end, adding a bone chilling one liner we will never forget.
The shots used in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation are cleverly orchestrated to make the viewer feel isolated and unsure. The single deep focus shot of Danny at the end of a long, eerie hallway is an example of exactly what makes this film a stand out. Creepier still, many of the scariest scenes are under bright lights leaving nothing to the imagination.
There is a killer backing track throughout the movie that just seems to sit in the background, waiting for something to happen which adds to the viewer's suspense. King was disappointed with the screen version, yet there is no denying, The Shining is a beloved thriller of many.
Original Novel by Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange is a dark novel and the movie is not for the fainthearted. It's bold. Daring. Psychotic. Reading the novel will twist you imagination until you're unsure if what you read has effected your psyche. Bringing this to a film was not an easy feat, and it was done brilliantly. The quirkiness of the story is continued through the detailed set design. It's clinical yet wickedly obscene. The camera shots, sometimes through fish eye lenses, are unnerving, another layer to an already twisted story.
The creepiness of the characters is not lost visually. All details of the novel are captured, even the language of Alex and his Droogs. Malcolm McDowell's performance as Alex is unsurpassed. He brilliantly brings the hauntingly dark characteristics of the character to life.
However, the addition of the music used in this adaptation was perhaps the creepiest part. Scenes of gore and rape are backed with classical masterpieces. Although the novel's Alex preferred Beethoven, Rossini is featured heavily in the film, possibly for his darker and more disjointed works.
To really understand this adaptation, you must read the book before watching the film. They almost go hand in hand. Although Burgess approved of the adaptation, his controversial last chapter was left out, which he disliked.
A Clockwork Orange is my number one movie to screen adaptation for its profound ability to appall and captivate you all at once.
So what have we learned? Sometimes, the movies will be different to the novel. Sometimes, the writers won't even approve. Almost always the set and music are what make a great film, but it is the director's vision that makes the world of the book come to life.
What are your favourite book to movie adaptations?