Let it be known that books and films are my twin loves in life, so writing this list was fairly excruciating. The greatest thing about a well-done adaptation is the heightened level of intimacy that can be achieved between the audience and the original story, especially when talented directors add a stylistic touch to accentuate the author’s original work and vision. All in all, when good literature is made into a good movie, my fancy gets tickled several times over. Here is my top 5 list of book-to-film adaptations.
5. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (Blake Edwards, 1961)
This iconic film may only be a loose and somewhat censored interpretation of Truman Capote’s novella, but indeed it is one of the most beloved book-to-film adaptations in American cinema. Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of the glamorous and vulnerable Holly Golightly is bang-on, and it is rather remarkable how influential her character’s look has remained more than 50 years later. A Hollywood ending that completely deviates from the original plot makes this endearing movie my own not-so-guilty pleasure.
4. “The Secret of NIMH” (Don Bluth, 1982)
A tad more sensational than Robert C. O’Brien’s original novel entitled, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, this adaptation still honours the book’s themes of science vs. nature, ethics, power, and a mother’s self-sacrifice for her children – pretty heavy stuff for your seemingly run-of-the-mill family feature. The animation’s quality is just as sophisticated, with a rich mix of dark colours and tones giving off the look of a Gothic painting. “The Secret of NIMH” conveys the same depth and beauty of O’Brien’s story, in a way both kids and adults are sure to enjoy.
3. “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (Terry Gilliam, 1998)
After his work with the screwball comedy troupe Monty Python, it is highly fitting that director and animator Terry Gilliam was given the task of adapting the blurry tale of Raoul Duke’s drug-induced exploits in the City of Sin. Gilliam’s off-beat artistic style perfectly reflects the descriptions of hallucinatory mayhem found in Hunter S. Thompson’s autobiographical book. Viewers are encouraged to buckle up before this psychedelic trip hurls them straight through Bat Country and into the nightmarish bowels of the American Dream.
2. “Trainspotting” (Danny Boyle, 1996)
John Hodge’s screenplay of Irvine Welsh’s novel whittles down the anthology’s various storylines and characters, yet the streamlined tale of heroine addiction in 1980s Edinburgh is just as gruesome and unbearable. The most interesting thing about the movie is its dichotomy as each character simultaneously attracts sympathy and repulsion; audiences are prompted to wonder how despicable a human-being can get before he becomes completely irredeemable. This and other contemplations occur against a legendary two-volume soundtrack boasting the likes of Iggy Pop, New Order, and Lou Reid.
1.“The Shining” (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Out of Kubrick’s adaptations, “The Shining” is my favourite. The set design, the performances, the music, and most of all the plot differences from Stephen King’s original story makes this film arguably better, or at the very least scarier. While the book has its own merit as a piece of horror literature, there are simply some elements, such as an evil boiler and walking hedge animals, that would not have translated well onto the screen. Kubrick managed to keep the film true to the core of the book’s subject matter while generating his own distinct directorial approach. A certain memorable shot involves a nod to American photographer Diane Arbus and her portrait entitled “Identical Twins.” It’s just one of many scenes that proves why this film is one of the greatest horror movies ever made.