Sunday, 25 November 2018

Five books and their films

My first book post went down so well that I had demands for another.  So this time we've got books and films.  Some you will have definitely seen or read, but there might be a couple of surprises in there too.

Chocolat

It was a rainy Friday night in Bristol, and I was in my student room with nothing to do.  On an impulse, I biked down the hill to the small independent cinema, and immersed myself in a world of sweetness and sunshine.  Chocolat was the perfect film to warm me up on a rainy evening.


Joanne Harris' book Chocolat also wafts the smell of sweets from its pages, but with a slightly darker edge.  Vianne has spent her life running from the Black Man of her mother's fears, but hopes that she, her daughter and her chocolate shop will find a settled home in this new village.  But the troubled priest there becomes her own Black Man, that she must face down to be able to stay.  The characters, the lilt of magic and the chocolate itself provide the reason to read this book.

Bridge to Terebithia
Not a well-known book in the UK, my grandma sent me this classic American children's story.  A boy in a deprived rural community finds an unexpected friend when a girl called Leslie moves in next door.  They help each other to deal with the bullies at school and Jesse's annoying sisters, but there's one thing that Jesse has to face all by himself.


When I was studying for an Open University course, it included a weekend away.  My choices were to slog down the motorway to Slough, or... fly to Dublin.  It was worth going to Dublin for the library at Trinity College by itself - a book-lover's fantasy - but when my feet got tired of exploring the city, I sat in a cinema for a while to watch Bridge to Terebithia.  It's always nerve-wracking to watch a film of a book you've grown up with, but I thought it was done well.  I only wished they could have done the forest scenes without going cartoon-y; that's the difficulty of showing imagination on a screen.

Lord of the Rings
I'd never read the Lord of the Rings until the epic movie series came out.  I'd read The Hobbit and disliked it, but after I'd seen the first Rings film, I decided the books must be worth reading after all.  They were.  They go on and on and the language gets more and more formal and the battles get bigger and bigger, and it's a great story on a grand scale.


The films are much the same, on perhaps an even grander scale, plus you get to feast your eyes on magnificent New Zealand scenery.  And elves.  At over 3 hours each, it might take you longer to watch the three movies than to read the three books.  I'd recommend you do both, but not all on the same day!

The Sound of Music
Everyone has heard of the film, of course, but did you know there was a book?  Maria von Trapp wrote about how she joined the Trapp family, how they fled to America and started a new life in Vermont as The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.  My mom had an old paperback copy on her bookshelf, and I read it long before I ever saw the movie version.


Which meant, of course, that I found the film a severe disappointment.  I felt like it had been made to conform to a Hollywood ideal - summed up by the moment when Maria learns that she should marry Georg von Trapp.   In the movie, they fling themselves into each other's arms to suitably romantic strains.  In the book, Maria seeks wisdom from the convent that she had been intending to enter.  When she returns, she sobs out, "They s-s-s-said I have to marry you!"  How much more real is that?

I admit that Julie Andrews skipping over a mountain singing The hills are alive... is pretty special.  But if you want to know the real-life story, track down the book.

About a Boy
Nick Hornby's novels often involve slightly dysfunctional people.  This one brings a dysfunctional guy together with a dysfunctional boy and his even more dysfunctional mother, and leaves them to try and sort each other out.  Reluctantly, they actually do.  While that's going on, the boy, Marcus, becomes the friend (or possibly pet) of the hardest girl in school, who is obsessed with Kurt Cobain.  Somehow they all end up in a police station trying to explain themselves.


It stars Hugh Grant.  That tells you at least half of what you need to know about the film of About a Boy.  There's a completely different ending to the one in the book, but for once I agree with the screenwriters on that.  Cinematically, it works far better than the Kurt Cobain / police station storyline, and gets you to effectively the same place in the end.  Dysfunctional or not, people need each other.

Do you have any favourite book/film combinations?  Let me know!

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