Showing posts with label film adaptations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film adaptations. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Retellings: Sherlock vs Elementary (jillian)

'Tis the season of retellings... particularly on terms of television.  I've been trying to wrap my head around the new CBS series Elementary, which sees Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in contemporary New York with Lucy Liu as his sidekick Joan Watson.  The Telegraph has a nice article on it, today. I've not seen it because television in general tends to eat time, but I have to admit I am curious now to see if it works or if it flops. 

As a devotee of BBC's Sherlock, I came to this as a bit of a biased snob.  "What?  Making Watson a woman?  Taking Sherlock out of London?"  Etcetera, etcetera.  But, of course, people probably said the same when Sherlock came out in 2010: "How can Benedict Cumberbatch possibly be better than Jeremy Brett?  The idea!"  But... while these misgivings are valid in their own way, I've come to realize or remember with humility that these are all retellings, not the original story. 

Like my argument about viewing a book and its subequent film or films as different animals (i.e. Pride and Prejudice), I think we need to look at the different versions of the stories as equally legitimate renderings.  There cannot be one "true" film or television verson of a story.  Each will be different.  Elementary chooses to emphasize Sherlock as a brilliant drug addict with tattoos, and Watson as a woman and the doctor assigned to keep him sober.  In Sherlock, he labels himself a "high functioning sociopath" and texts compulsively, as Watson is the roommate who keeps him in line and keeps him human.  One show is American, the other is British.  One is slated as a regular series, the other is a miniseries.  The comparisons continue, but neither is wrong.  Both are a celebration of the original seed of the Sherlock Holmes stories that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in the late 19th century.  To nitpick about Watson's gender or Sherlock's hair color is to totally miss the point.  The details are just colors, shadows and angles.  The writers, actors and directors of both shows have distinctly different ideas about what makes those stories and characters so compelling.  That's why I sit humbly on my hands when i think about my ire for Ridley Scott's Robin Hood.  No one owns Robin Hood.  No one owns Sherlock Holmes.  They belong to everyone.

Retellings are in our blood, those left-over Anglo-Saxon narrative impulses.  Our version of Beowulf isn't the original, but it celebrates the original seed of the story.  Same with King Arthur and Robin Hood, and Homer's tales.  In this era, the stories have evolved from oral anonymities to published works.  I ask again, how many times has Pride and Prejudice or Great Expectations made it to a miniseries or theatrical form?  Many times celebrated.  If anything, film versions always bring the most intrigued back to the source, back to reading how the "real" Sherlock Holmes solved mysteries, made meticulous observations and shot cocaine when he was bored.  (No, I don't condone him.  We're not supposed to.)  So how can multiple versions be a bad thing?  And can't they co-exist? 


So... pick your poison!

Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.  CBS.

Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  BBC.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Whimsical Wednesday (Jillian)

There have been quite a few little news tidbits in the writing world-at-large in the last week, and I thought I'd compile them here for a Whimsical Wednesday.  Ready? 

  • Today, Stephen King announced that he is penning a sequel to The Shining, his third novel, to be published next year, entitled Doctor Sleep.  It follows Danny Torrance, who was a young boy in The Shining, and whose father succumbed to evil spirits that inhabited a winter hotel.  This was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson, generally thought to be one of the scariest films ever.  I've seen parts.  I was properly freaked out.  I am just amazed at Mr. King's work ethic, this drive to create.  If you're a King fan and want to know more, here is his website:
  • Last week, we heard from Mandy Patinkin (read article here) about why he left the violent television show Criminal Minds several years ago.  He says his role as a criminal profiler was "very destructive to my soul and personality," and Criminal Minds was not the show he thought it would be.  He has made a very good point about the sort of destruction that we take for granted on television these days. 
  • For history buffs, you may be following the news that the grave of Richard III was found in Leicester, Great Britain, at a site underneath a car park (parking lot) where the Grey Friars church was believed to have stood.  Richard III had a short, tempestuous reign and was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.  His body was paraded through the town by the victorious Tudors and buried at the church, which was later lost in obscurity.  The skeleton in question appears to have signs of scoliosis - perhaps resembling the hunchback of Shakespeare's play (though not quite), and an arrowhead through the neck.  DNA testing will commence to see if he is in fact the lost king.  If he is, he may be entitled to a state funeral, five-hundred twenty-seven years after his death.  The Telegraph as all the intrigue
  • The trailer for The Hobbit was released today.  The Telegraph has the trailer embedded here.  I am excited to see these beloved stories come to life once again, and see Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch among familiar faces... although the latter, also known as Sherlock Holmes (Freeman being Watson), may not be particularly recognizable.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book to Film (Jillian)

Still from The Hobbit, starring Martin Freeman. Due out next year.

As a writer, I have a great (perhaps natural) interest in books that grow up to be made into films. I do get a little queasy, however, when such a film deviates from its original material to the extent that it is an entirely different story. But I always come back to my philosophy: a novel and a film are two completely different art forms - words and images - therefore, they cannot and will not be able to convey a story in the exact same way.

Twilight and Harry Potter aside, the biggest discussions I've heard (and perhaps been a part of) in the last several years, have inv0lved the innumerable film adaptations of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte's novels, new television and film revivals of Sherlock Holmes, an Oscar-contending remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and excitement over The Hunger Games, which hits theaters in March. The Hunger Games, by the way, looks exactly the way I envisioned it. I'll have a quiver in my spine till I can go see it!

There is an unconscious desire among fans for a perfect film version of Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre. Many cite the 1995 "Colin Firth" version of Pride & Prejudice as "the best", whereas others appreciate the simple, natural beauty of the 2005 film. For Jane Eyre, the debate has recently been strung between the 2006 BBC version starring Ruth Wilson, and last year's film starring Mia Wasikowska. There are as many opinions as there are films. One thing it does show us is that these stories resonate strongly... that we want to see it retold again and again, from different camera angles, with different faces, with new music, in new colors. This kaleidoscope of story is an incredibly beautiful thing!

What prompted my thoughts today is a quiver of excitement about The Hobbit. A trailer was released this week, a year in advance. I have to say I was skeptical about The Hobbit being brought to film (actually two), as the story, frankly, is a bit of a hiccup of events prior to The Lord of the Rings. Knowing Peter Jackson, I am well aware that liberties will be taken, that story lines may be embellished, and the final product will be spectacular.

Having seen the trailer, I am excited - not because this is a translation of a beloved story into film, but because it looks as good as The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings, books and films, has an incredibly special place in my heart. I will see The Hobbit next year knowing 1.) this is a mixture of Jackson's storytelling with Tolkein's storytelling; 2.) it will have a lot more in it than the book did; 3.) I may not agree with some of these creative changes, but; 4.) I will enjoy it very much.

In other words, to boycott a film because it isn't exactly like the book is silly. In some ways, perhaps the film of The Hobbit will delve deeper into plots and journeys (and not just because this story happens to feature a company of dwarves). That's possible, isn't it? But even if it is "better" or least "flashier" than the book, the film can in no way replace the book. A film is only a retelling.

One more example of novel-into-film is Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Book and film do not match because the story is told in different ways: the book is far more mysterious, magical and shadowy than the film; the film is faster, more adventurous and more perilous than the book. I love them both, just as I love the original and retold versions of The Lord of the Rings, Pride & Prejudice, and Jane Eyre.


As a side note, I am a little curious about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, mostly as a study in character. What I've read of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander intrigues me, but I am not sure I'd want to be witness to the violence and brutality that inevitably comes with the story. I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jane Eyre 2011 in brief (Jillian)

Jane Eyre 2011 (Mia Wasikowska)

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT! While on the subject of Charlotte Brontë, I did see the current-most theatrical version of Jane Eyre, last week.

Things I liked:

1. The film begins with Jane’s trek across the moors and finding refuge in the cottage of St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his sisters.

2. Mia Wasikowska, despite her youth, is very good as the reserved but passionate Jane.

3. The character of the house keeper Mrs. Fairfax (Dame Judi Dench) is given more depth and more of a meaningful relationship with Jane.

4. The film is visually stunning with tricks of lights (i.e. fire light) and shadows. As Jane struggles across the wet, dark moor to the Rivers’ cottage, one light in a window draws her into safety.

Things I didn’t like:

1. Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender) is too handsome, and, quite frankly, too creepy. His is a complicated character – always in danger of being portrayed as either too mysterious and angry, or too masculine and cold – an uncomfortable contrast either way to Jane’s youth and lack of knowledge of the world. In the film, this contrast is made far more sexual than it needs to be.

2. It was hard to trust the nuances of their relationship. The film definitely shows Jane and Rochester falling in love but fails to truly answer those nagging depth-questions: Why does Jane love Mr. Rochester? Other than wanting to escape from his insane and mostly-inhuman wife, why does Mr. Rochester love Jane?

3. St. John Rivers does not lose his temper and threaten Jane with eternal damnation in the book.

4. There were moments where lines, lifted almost exactly from the book, were delivered awkwardly, as if the actors were reading them aloud in a literature class.

Over all, I am still very much devoted to the 2006 miniseries starring Tobey Stephens and Ruth Wilson. So much of the novel is better developed in that format – there is more space and time to deepen the story (the friendship into romance, the secrets, the riddles from Rochester’s past, questions of the future) in ways a two-hour feature film cannot. On the whole, Jane Eyre (2011) is a good film, and as novels-into-films go, the 2011 is very faithful to Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, but it has more shadows than spirit.

Jane Eyre 2006 (Ruth Wilson)


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