The book was better- a modern tragedy
Autumn is coming. It’s not quite here yet, but it’s coming.
The nights are darker, there’s a detectable chill in the air, and soup has never seemed more appealing.
The beginning of autumn is a welcome sign to me. It means that finally I can stop pretending to like being outdoors and become the burrowing creature that I am. I can build my aforementioned burrow in my sofa, settle in for the weekend and move only to find snacks and warm beverages. Behaviour that is frowned upon during sunny weather finally becomes acceptable for a prolonged period of time. Welcome, autumn, I’ve been waiting for you.
When autumn hits, I want to feel cozy inside and out. Many people turn to Pumpkin Spice lattes for this coziness. Drinking a cup of froth that tastes like the Lush shop smells doesn’t quite fit the bill for me.
For me, my inner coziness comes with a nice big Period Drama. Not the kind that leaves you crying in the biscuit aisle at certain points during the month- rather the corset ripping, candlelit, horseback riding, racy, saucy kind. Nothing brings more joy to my autumnal months than settling in with the saucy scandals of yesteryear. Somehow so quaint even when there are frequent beheadings.
Recently my daily commute has been made cozier by Phillpa Gregory’s big fat period drama book The Other Boleyn Girl. It is JUICY. Those Tudors knew how to live. I finally finished the book yesterday and was honestly devastated. It had been a reliable source of ten entertaining minutes morning and night for several weeks. I just don’t think I can trust another book to be as good now.
And so, yesterday, looking to recapture the happy times spent with Henry VIII during the book, I decided to sit down and watch 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.
It was so disappointing.
This was absolutely not the story I had envisaged at all. I felt affronted. Why was Anne Boleyn the original one to get set up with Henry VIII? Why did Mary only have 1 royal baby? Where did Benedict Cumberbatch go? Why is everything happening so quickly? Ugh.
And then I realised, this is not a new problem. Book lovers have been heartbroken by the cinematic interpretation of their favourites since… forever.
Here are a few of the main problems that I feel in general ruin films based on books.
1. You already had an image in your head of what everything looked like.
Everyone makes their own image of what the characters in a story look and sound like. Noone I have imagined ever looked like Scarlett Johansson.
(I’m still cross with her because she ruined Girl with the Pearl Earring by not looking like the actual painting.)
When the film doesn't look like you imagined it, you forget how you imagined it before you saw the film. Then you feel angry.
Unless the book in question is 30 pages long, or the film is 5 hours long, it’s never going to be word for word perfect. Screenwriters and directors make choices that cut and change the original text. Any Harry Potter fan will know that their favourite part of a book might be completely missing from the film of the book. It’s sad. I was devastated to see the book that I had enjoyed over 2 weeks of commuting squashed mercilessly into 2 hr 35. Even in that comparatively long running time, the plot felt rushed. I wanted the book I had read but FOR SEEING not reading. Instead I got something different and I felt short-changed.
3. Creative license
When you love a book, when you really really love a book it fills you with deepset rage to see any sort of changes made to any part of that book in the film version. You feel like you own that story and anyone who changes it is personally offending you. Or maybe that was just me when a few tiny plots points were changed in The Other Boleyn Girl.
Some actors and actresses carry different connotations for viewers. As previously mentioned, I feel cross with Scarlett Johansson for not looking like my idea of The Girl with A Pearl Earring, another adaptation of a book I love from 2003. Natalie Portman was a perfect Anne Boleyn but Mark Rylance in this confused me. He’s Thomas Cromwell from Wolf Hall, not Anne Boleyn’s dad. WHY IS HE THERE?
When I started writing this post I felt that I had a strong and well thought out argument. Now I see that perhaps I’m getting myself into a period drama about this period drama. I’m going to go eat some chocolate hobknobs and have a cup of tea.
Essentially. Books are great. Films are great. But both should be viewed as separate art forms and enjoyed as individuals. Just look at how much Stephen King hated the film version of The Shining. It’s a different retelling of the same story. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s not good. Apart from The Other Boleyn Girl, because actually that wasn’t that good.
Whilst you’re here:
Here’s my pick of the finest period drama reads that have not yet been butchered into a film, to warm your autumn days.
· Anything by Phillipa Gregory- the woman can do no wrong.
· The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell- Ooh a spooky Victorian tale!
· The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown- Tense witch hunting goodness.
· The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst- a delightful 18th century romp.
· The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower- the literary equivalent of a full Sunday lunch with gravy and Yorkshires. Excellent.
Turn into a film at thy peril.