Catching up on Classics (and lots more!) discussion

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Film & TV Adaptations > A Discussion of Classics and their Film Adaptations

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message 1: by PinkieBrown (new)

PinkieBrown Hopefully, an ongoing series of classics/ film combinations.


message 2: by PinkieBrown (new)

PinkieBrown Far From The Madding Crowd

Novel- Thomas Hardy-1874
There's a marked difference in the maturity of "Jude the Obscure" over this book; one a fully fledged novel of ideas and one a serialisation courting popularity using what looks like George Eliot's template both of a rural ideal (sic not idyll) and story elements. Troy for Donnithorne; Bathsheba and Hetty Sorrell; Oak and Bede; yet Eliot colours and fills in her picture with wonderful background. The parson and the teacher provide intellectual counterpoint; voicing philosophy whilst Hardy's farm labourers spout religious rhetoric and appear as comic relief which comes off patronising. "Adam Bede" is twice the length and "Silas Marner" half the length; the former has a considerably more depth; the latter more concision but all three have some similar plot points. So reading Eliot so close spoilt this story but didn't dent my affection and awe for "Jude the Obscure" in the slightest; hence reasoning that Hardy courted recognition and got it with "Far....". The overbearing classical literary references throughout, comically, feel like listening to Jude prove how well read he is in a Christminster pub! It just is so marked how confident Eliot is with her first novel whilst Hardy seems to be button pushing in comparison, and Eliot has to concern herself with her gender being discovered and tilting the perceptions of the sexual elements of her book adversely; in light her clear eyed perceptions are even more remarkable.

Hardy doesn't frame the rural aspects of the tale any better than Eliot but the realism is fascinating. Ironic that the traditions and structure of the countryside is transforming alarmingly to Hardy; the town Norcombe appearing to have its buildings dismantled at a distressing rate which feels like a modernist malaise. Both Eliot and Hardy seem to want to seal this world in a bottle as Eliot sets her book in the previous century and Hardy seeks to disguise the year of events like Bronte coughing over place names. It puts these times at a remove actually adding a romantic edge and the title does that; a nod to the metropolitan audience for his writing in a periodical? I'm somewhat diminishing his work here because I have Jude as insurance of the greatness of his writing which is socially relevant, ideological but also terrifically poetic by that stage in his career. This book feels like the breakthrough he needed to gain confidence. There's a rictus irony that he married the year of this books publishing and it is abrasive to the subject of marriage, and both the institution and the religion that surrounds it is targeted much more accurately in Jude whereas here it provides an element of sadism; as in it provides then ties that bind and the basis for an awful lot of pain. Eliot folds religion in and around society like a well worked cake mix. Eliot seems the developed intellectual before she wrote whereas like Jude, Hardy is a self-taught man who gained the time to think and refine his ideas once his books started to sell.

Film- John Schlesinger- 1967
I finished Hardy's novel yesterday; looking forward to watching this beautiful movie. It has a glassy reality to its photography and offers the rural vision of the source with every rainy day and muddy farmyard as bold and as ugly as life. There's a lack of depth to the episodic novel that actually fits a screen play very well; and whilst I disliked the surface treatment, particularly of Bathsheba, who may or may not be capricious, and may be treated misogynistically by Hardy; it allowed the actors to bring more shading to the characters; Bates in boho rags keeping his opinions to himself, a darker more satanic Troy by the gorgeous Stamp, Finch in fine upright slightly jittery form, with Christie swirling at the centre. Troy complains in the book that Bathsheba's beauty has a hundred men in love with her, denying 99 women the attention of a suitor; the philosophy of the fly-by-night Troy is substituted for a man intent on trouble almost obsessed with his own charm and handsome features. Roeg loves them both with his lense; and whether it's the riveted steppes of a chalk hill to be clambered over or a haystack burning in a valley dusk, this is the crowning glory of a movie that honours a book, possibly, more than necessary, and seeks to attain the epic status of a Lean film, intermission and all. This is a story meant for cinema perhaps more than it was meant for a novel.

Film- Thomas Vinterberg- 2015
To stand anywhere close in comparison to John Schlesinger's version of the story is enough praise. How can you match Christie, Stamp, Finch and Bates? Well, the older version was very true to the source and being totally in honour will hamstring a film; for the altogether obvious reason that a book isn't a film and vice versa.
I've come to love this story but more for the treatment of the two films. Hardy tried very hard to impress in his serialised novel, and, in 19th Century terms, that meant a slew, a bundle, a tsunami, of references from the bible and greek and latin; somewhat to establish one's intellectual credentials as a writer; yet, the episodic nature of the monthly publication really suits the cinematic form. The story jumps from a little sheep drama, to burning haystacks, to a little more sheep drama; some very erotic swordplay....no real sword...not...anyway...., and it works very well on screen; eschewing the typical depth of a classic novel.
So why bother remaking it? Cary Mulligan's presence suggests a retelling with view to feminising a story; which isn't terribly complementary to Bathsheba; pulled and tugged by caprice and desire into a terrible situation. Only when asked to express her feelings does she allude to the impossibility of saying how she feels in the language designed for and by men. Bronte and George Eliot could write towards feminist iconography but Hardy is pretty much being a man trying to write a woman; so Mulligan wrestles with Hardy's intentions rather than conquers them for the modern age; although it is the weakness of men, which threatens her downfall; primarily, rather than her own struggle to rise to a station which would have been unusual for a woman, and which causes men to rush in towards her, as if they feel the need to plug a vacuum.
It's a romantic retelling of a novel attempting to hold back its own romance. Romantic for the sunlight rather than the mud of the older film, which I preferred, but of all the adaptations I have seen recently, it's the story that makes for good cinema and this is, first and foremost, a good movie.

Summary
In hindsight, my dismissal of Hardy’s pretensions provided by reading the immense “Mayor of Casterbridge” and “The Woodlanders” which is a refinement of the Bathesheba story and my ever growing admiration of “Jude the Obscure” is outdated by a fuller knowledge of Hardy’s indisputable greatness; the first chapter of “Mayor....” blows all doubts aside. “Far From The Madding Crowd” grew in stature itself thanks to both movies. Hardy provides the material that encourages Nic Roeg to take Terence Stamp off into the hills for a spot of cinematic sword-swashing (scything etc.) to launch his own directorial career in one scene.

I was irritated by Hardy’s treatment of his peasant folk. He had a right as any hometown boy to power his own escape into a grander life on a disdain for the unambiguous village folk; it always helps to be running away from something to get to where you need to go. Neither film presses these snobbish buttons so nothing to get irked by and the stoicism of Gabriel Oak works perfectly on screen, like an Elmore Leonard hero expressing much in a smirk or the man with no name chewing silently on a thought before tersely saying “I don’t think it’s nice you laughing”.

It was right to start this thread with a book that works so well as a film; it’s simpler nature avoids the obstacles of ineffability that a classic novel presents. Mulligan might wrest the capricious nature of Bathsheba further than Christie and makes of her more a modern feminine hero but Bates, Stamp and Finch is a triple threat difficult to compete with. All three treatments help each other to increase the splendour of the story- it has a soft place in my heart.


message 3: by PinkieBrown (new)

PinkieBrown Please add any thoughts about classics/ film combinations that come to mind.


message 4: by Cynda (last edited Mar 29, 2019 05:17PM) (new)

Cynda | 3052 comments I have recently re-read Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen. As I read, I watched the 1963 movie production with Ingrid Bergman.

I wanted to watch as an authentic version of the olay as I could. I watched people who lived closer in time to the 1890s who were more familiar with the aestethics, attitudes, amd worldview. I watched Scandinavian Swede play a Scandavian Norwegian lead. I wanted to experience Hedda's experience as well as I could, authentically as I could. I did it. I am glad I did it.

Here is my review which blends my understanding of the text and the movie.
hedda gabler review


message 5: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1010 comments I love The Heiress, the 1949 adaptation of Washington Square starring Olivia de Haviland and Montgomery Clift (in I think his first role). It's a bit darker than the novel -- in the book Catherine simply learns to see clearly her father and her lover, but in the movie she "discovers her tongue at last, only to say such things" and gets a bit of her own back on both of them.


message 6: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 3945 comments Michele wrote: "I love The Heiress, the 1949 adaptation of Washington Square starring Olivia de Haviland and Montgomery Clift (in I think his first role). It's a bit darker than the novel -- in the b..."

I loved both of these too, equally I think, though I agree with you about the differences. I found Montgomery Clift mesmerizing in this role. I read the book first, long ago, but I've since seen the movie several times. I'm anxious to revisit the book now.


message 7: by W (new)

W I liked the film adaptation of Mutiny on the Bounty.Also,the b/w film of All Quiet on the Western Front is great.


message 8: by Toviel (new)

Toviel (exagge) | 63 comments I adore the 1944 film version of Double Indemnity, moreso than the book itself (and I liked the book!). Haven't seen it nor read the book in quite a few years, but I remember the ending was completely changed. I prefer the film version's ending.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is one of my favorite books ever, and the movie is pretty good, too. I was surprised to learn afterwards that Lady Chablis played herself in the movie!


message 9: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1010 comments Gone with the Wind and Forever Amber both have excellent movie adaptations.

Orson Welles' version of The Magnificent Ambersons is terrific, too.


Shirley (stampartiste) | 791 comments Years ago, I watched a late-night 1959 adaptation of The Sound and the Fury with Yul Brynner and Joanne Woodward. It must have been good because I wanted to read the book, but I did not finish it. Hopefully this time around, I will have better success.


message 11: by W (new)

W David Lean's adaptations of Dr.Zhivago,and A Passage to India are great.


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