What are your thoughts on adaptions of classics (mini-series/ movies / modern versions)? Are there any good ones? Is it better to read the book first?
Over the years I’ve watched dozens of films and mini-series based on classic novels. Sometimes they are wonderful. The BBC mini-series of Cranford was well done and it absolutely gave me a deeper appreciation for the book. The 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility is another one that I could watch over and over again. Other times they deviate so far from the text that it’s hard to recognize the original work (think Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore.)
When a classic is reworked in the modern world I think just as true that it can be good or bad. A few of my favorites include 10 Things I Hate About You, a re-telling of The Taming of the Shrew, Clueless, a re-telling of Emma and then Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon’s 2013 version.) All three movies are well-cast and fun. The first two deviated from the original text, but they did it in a fun way that kept the heart of the story intact.
Sometimes it’s fun to see a variety of versions of the same story. There are a dozen version of Jane Eyre, each with its own twist. I thought Michael Fassbender made a fantastic Mr. Rochester in the 2011 version, but I loved the 2006 mini-series more. The Jane from that version, Ruth Wilson, was so perfect.
Great Expectations has had a recent resurgence of remakes. I loved the 2012 version with Ralph Fiennes, but I thought the 2011 version was off-putting. The actor who played Pip (Douglas Booth) was too pretty for the role. It just didn’t work. There’s another 1998 modern version with Ethan Hawke that is interesting. I like it, but not because it sticks closely to the original story.
In my opinion you should always read the book first. Then take the adaptation with a grain of salt, don’t expect it to be a perfect recreation of the story in your head. Allow the movie or mini-series to enhance your experience with the book instead of trying to compare them scene for scene.
What are your favorite versions of classics on the big screen?