Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lost in the adaptation

I sometime wonder what happens between the time someone says of a book, “oh gee, wouldn’t this would make a great movie?!?” and the movie actually gets made and is released.

One realizes that everything in the book can’t be in the movie. Sometimes when they leave stuff out, it actually improves the story. Case in point: Silence of the Lambs. In some respects, what they left out of the movie made it better than the book.

I realize that some things have to be changed because film is a different medium than print. Plot devices that work in a book don’t always work in a film. But sometimes what they do is just bewildering, and unnecessary, and it doesn’t seem to make any sense, at least on the surface.

When the movie Runaway Jury began, Richard and I thought we had walked into the wrong theater. Eventually it got back on track, but that major plot change at the beginning that left us scratching our heads. The wonderful ending of The Firm?” Totally changed. The armchair-gripping ending of Midnight Express? Totally changed.

Whenever I see a movie that I have enjoyed that I know is based on a book, I try to find the book and read it, which may be a mistake. I dunno.

At any rate, I enjoyed the movie Under the Tuscan Sun (I gave it an 8 at the Internet Movie Database). I have enjoyed watching Diane Lane ever since her first movie as a 13 year old in A Little Romance.

When I saw the book at the used-book store...

I couldn’t resist. I was definitely interested in finding out about the book that spawned the movie.

What is especially odd in this case, even after what I know about how things get lost in the adaptation, is that aside from sharing a title, being set in Tuscany, and involving remodeling a house, the two have almost nothing in common. Nothing. It's astounding. Where did the story for the movie come from??

The book is a enjoyable memoir of the 3-year project of Frances Mayes and her boyfriend to remodel a old, old stone house...

I am about to buy a house in a foreign country.... it is tall, square and apricot-colored with faded green shutters, ancient tile roof, and an iron balcony on the second level, where ladies might have sat with their fans to watch some spectacle below... the balcony faces southwest.... when it rains or when the light changes, the facade of the house turns gold, sienna, ocher; a previous scarlet paint job seeps through in rosy spots like a box of crayons left to melt in the sun....
Not only that, they become heavily involved in horticulture -- rejuvenating fruit trees, olive tree, and grape vines, planting flowers and herbs. Similar to the delightful recounting of John Mayle of his A Year in Provence, the book is part travel guide, part house beautiful, part home repair and gardening guide. And also part cookbook. She’s got recipes. Lord, have mercy. Definitely the wrong sort of book to be reading when one is on a diet. I remember an American Lit professor telling us that when he was a college student studying the Hemingway story we were studying (I think it was The Sun Also Rises), that as a lark, they decided to get a drink every time the main character got a drink. They spent a lot of time drinking. In the case of Frances Mayes book, I kept wanting to run to the olive oil bottle and pour it on the crusty herb bread I had made and sliced and stuck in the freezer for our son. I kept wanting to boil water for pasta. I even got a bit of an education: I had to look up the word “scuppernogs” in the dictionary.

I think the irony in all this is that there was one rather funny thing that happened in the book that should have been in the movie, even with all the changes.

We’re entertaining friends in the sun-dappled bower, just as I envisioned. I go into the kitchen and began arranging a selection of cheeses on grape leaves. I am flushed and excited in my white linen dress... Above me, Primo is scraping the floor. I look up. He has removed two tiles and there is a hole in the ceiling. Just as I look back at my cheese platter, Primo accidently kicks over his bucket and cement pours onto my head! My hair, my dress, the cheese, my arms, the floor. I look up and see his startled face peering down like a cherub in a fresco...

Wouldn’t that have been wonderful in the movie!!! I can’t figure out why they didn’t put it in. Maybe they didn’t actually read the book?


Wanda said...

I know most of the time I enjoy reading the book more than watching the movie...there are exceptions...but I like savoring the words wrtten by the author I enjoyed your post just now.

Tami said...

I too loved the movie. And was shocked how different the book was. But I did enjoy the book too! If your changing your diet and this is the type of food you like than go 'Mediterranean'...chk out the following site.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I try very hard never to see a movie if I have read the book - somehow the two ar not compatible. I think it is because one uses one's imagination to the full when reading a book and then when it comes on the screen all your thinking is done for you.

Leilani Lee said...

Yes Weaver... I definitely think you are right. Imagination is the key...

Cloudia said...

Thoughtful post! Thanks.
I like Dianne Lane too.
I dream that Angeline Jolie stars in the adaptation of my novel, "Aloha Where You Like Go?"
Of course they change EVERYTHING, but I'm making bucks, have more sudden opportunities, and folks like you will find my little book, my message in a bottle.
Where am I...reverie?

Comfort Spiral