During my first semester of college, I was a theater major, enrolled in a theater history class that I probably wouldn’t have been taking if it weren’t required. The problem with it — other than the fact that it met at 9 a.m. and took place in a building all the way across campus from my dorm — was that there was just too much reading. And I, like many new college students, was much more interested in hanging out with my friends than I was into the idea of spending my evenings with a copy of Oedipus Rex and a highlighter.
When we were assigned Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I figured I was lucky, because I’d seen the movie and I vividly remembered Elizabeth Taylor yelling “MAGGIE THE CAT IS ALIVE!” at Paul Newman, so I figured I was all set. Of course, as this story would have to go, I figured wrong. Turns out that Tennessee Williams had included things in his play that hadn’t made it into the film, and I was, yet again, lost during class discussion.
This story from my youth serves as an example of the time-worn cliche that the book is always better than the movie. I’m sure we’ve all had this conversation at some point in our lives:
A: I just saw (insert title here).
B: Oh yeah? Well, the book is better.
And sometimes we’ve had this conversation with the popular variation, “there’s so much in the book that a film can’t capture.”
And so I’d like to ask what you think about film adaptations of literature. Do movies always fall short of the books they’re based on? Why? Can you think of examples of films that surpass the books that inspire them? And finally, have you read something that you’ve wanted to turn into a movie? How would you do it?