It really does seem to be the Christmas of the Adaptation, doesn’t? Aside from the Nativity, which is adapted by schools, nurseries (my nephew played the Christmas Owl in his!) and church groups across the land, great old and modern classics are currently wriggling onto our screens to put a new spin on the stories we thought we knew oh so well.
Because a novel and a movie are entirely different beasts, so to head to the cinema in the belief we’re about to see an absolute representation of a much-loved book is daft, really. The best you can hope for is a director, cast and crew with an understanding of the source material, and the talent, to present something that captures the atmosphere and sense of the original story – not a blow-by-blow account (which, would, quite frankly, be dull), and add some extra spectacle as well.
For starters, we have Mike Newell’s interpretation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, starring the splendidly eccentric Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham (pictured top of post) – a role she clearly relishes, and Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch (above).
I’ve already got my ticket for Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, a novel I adored for its vivid fable-esque qualities. It has a lot to live up to, but Ang Lee is a film maker of amazing scope, and the Life of Pi trailer already hints that he may have accomplished something utterly breathtaking, utterly transportative.
And then there’s Peter Jackson’s much-anticipated first instalment of Tolkein’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, starring Martin Freeman as beloved Bilbo Baggins.
The fact Jackson has chosen to spread the single, relatively slim, volume over three films makes me a bit nervous, but then that’s what adaptations are, aren’t they? Books adapted, reinvented, reimagined for a completely different medium – presented with all the visuals, sounds and narratives parcelled up in the way the filmmaker feels best tells a the story, taking it from the page direct to our emotional cores. I can’t wait to see how each of these filmmakers approaches their daunting task, and how we, the audience, feel when we emerge from the cinema.
Because lovers of novels must be among the toughest audiences in the world, and in the end it all comes down to expectations.