Good Reading : December January 2005
goodreading 15 PHOTO: LAURIE SPARHAM. COPYRIGHT: © 2004 WORKING TITLE FILMS. categorical Imight. Felicity Bloch never does. See the screen version of a book, that is. Mention the word ‘adaptation’ and you open up a Pandora’s box of opinions. Everyone has their own view of how good, or bad, film, stage and television versions of novels are.We all have our favourites as well as our adaptations from hell. (Anyone who remembers the 1960s Hollywood epic The Bible, with Charlton Heston as Moses in flowing crimplene robes complete with American accent, will know what I mean.) Ultimately, each version of a novel has to measure up to individual criteria – has the adaptation tackled the book along the lines of our expectations? As a Jane Austen fan, the BBC TV adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, first screened in 1995, with Colin Firth as Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth, perfectly captured my visualisation of the characters.To this day, I can’t imagine any actor other than Firth smouldering in the part. And yet I couldn’t warm to Gwyneth Paltrow’s brittle, chiselled-featured Emma in the eponymous film. Chacun à son goût. Is adaptation success, then, just a fluke of personal preference? No, says Felicity Bloch. A freelance theatre and book reviewer, Bloch categorically refuses to see any film or television version of a book she has loved. She doesn’t mind being called a purist. She has, she says, worked out the characters perfectly in her mind’s eye. She knows their shape, colouring, the clothes they wear, pictures the houses they live in, hears the sound of their voices, the cadences of their speech. So strong is this impression that she views any other interpretation as a dilution of a deeply-felt experience. Bloch personifies how emotionally attached we become to books, so much so that ‘playing’ with them – altering a storyline, condensing the the story of the film of the book Ever found yourself shaking your head in disbelief at a particularly crass piece of miscasting, or hurling insults at a television screen because those idiot directors have butchered your favourite scene? You aren’t alone! DINA ROSS examines the pitfalls – and peaks – of adapting books for stage and screen. Above: Bridget (Renée Zellweger) and Mark (Colin Firth) in a scene from the second Bridget Jones’ film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Both films were based on Helen Fielding’s novels.