Part two: Do films of the works of novelists and playwrights insult the authors, or are they welcome additions?

Continued from yesterday... The problem with film adaptations is really quite simple. When we read literature, we are able to interpret the novel or play in our own way. When we watch films based upon novels we are watching someone else’s interpretation of the author’s work – and this can serve as a rude interruption. Similarly it can frustrate and aggravate when the film bares only a passing resemblance to the novel we all know and love.

However there are many films based upon the works of authors which are polished professional and a welcome addition to the original texts. Shakespeare had many stories to tell but the problem posing prose and difficult, dated old English has often been enough to deter even the most avid and dedicated reader. Films can help combat this problem. It is sad that people are prepared to slump in front of the television and are not prepared to read, but such is modern life today. Consequently if films ensure that Shakespeare’s messages are not lost on the next generation and the generation after that – then they have to be seen as a welcome addition to the original score. Films can also help inspire people to read more widely. For example sales of David Nichols’ One Day have reportedly soared following the hugely successful film starring Ann Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. I can see why: I saw the film and it made me want to rush right out and read the book. If a film can have this effect, then surely it has to be seen as a welcome addition to the original score?

Credit where credit is due to Baz Luhrmann. The Strictly Ballroom director’s modern spin on Romeo and Juliet, the classic tale of love and hate, is spectacular. The inventiveness and awesome sets make for good viewing; the tone is set early on due to narration via a TV news report and a chilling shout out between the Montagues and the Capulets. Shakespearian lovers may complain but in truth Shakespeare has never been so much fun. As my friend, never a fan of Shakespeare, said after we watched it: “Even though it’s all in fancy poetry, the pictures make it all come to life and easy to understand. It’s very refreshing for people like me who remember slogging through Shakespeare at school and haven’t given him a second thought since, to find themselves actually enjoying it.”

If a film helps to reinvent Shakespeare and make him popular and credible, then films have to be regarded in a favourable light. And who knows the watching of films could inspire the reading of actual plays and novels. Yet if these films are to be successful then they need to stick closely to the text. Otherwise the end result is more hindrance than help; more of an insult than a welcome addition…