Classics Club August Question

Friday, August 8, 2014

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?


Anonymous said...

Yeah, there are some adaptations I love, and there are others I don't. I loved the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility and the Thompson/Branagh Much Ado About Nothing (particularly for its diverse cast). As for disappointments, there's the 2007 Sally Hawkins version of Persuasion. The ending was just strange.

I usually think it's important to read the book first, but sometimes it's the adaptation that gets me to read the book (such as the 2004 mini-series version of North & South)

LindyLouMac said...

I definitely agree how important it is to read the book first! My all time favourite classic adaptation is Far From The Madding Crowd, the one with Terence Stamp.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

misfortuneofknowing - I loved the earlier version of Persuasion (I think 1995) much more!

LindyLouMac - I have that one to look forward to. I haven't read that one yet, so I'll save the movie until after I have.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Absolute favorite adaptation? Also my absolute favorite movie: The Man from Snowy River, based on Banjo Patterson's poem. I love how it takes the poem's action -- trying to capture a runaway horse that's joined a band of wild horses -- and gives it a whole backstory.

(I liked the 1995 version of Persuasion better too.)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Hamlette - I think I've heard of that one, but I've never seen it. Looks like I'm going to have to read and watch it now!