Sunday, 4 September 2011

The chicken or the egg

It's an age old question a book worm/film buff often finds themselves grappling with - which should come first: the book or the film?
It's a conundrum that has divided opinion since the first film adaptation was made (and it was probably a silent Shakespeare play or Jane Austen novel) and which shows no sign of being settled in the near future.

I am, for the most part, firmly in the camp of 'book comes first' (although I did need to see the films of The Lord of the Rings before the books made any sense), which is why I spent three evenings tearing my way through 'One Day' before the film came out.
It's a charming concept for a plot line - following Emma and Dexter through twenty years of friendship on the same day every year. They don't necessarily have to be in the same room, or indeed see each other at all, but it is clear that each feels the others' presence keenly.

I could have quite easily read the entire thing in one hit, but it's a bit too depressing to do so comfortably. Dexter is not the nicest of characters and seems intent on ruining his own life. As he spirals out of control into an alcoholic haze, the reader struggles to find any sympathy to give him at all. Indeed his only redeeming feature seems to be Emma, and even she appears determined to waste the talent she has at first. As one star falls the other begins to rise, and it's debatable whether they ever truly end up parallel.

The film sticks very closely to the book, which is inevitable, as there's not much point in any real deviation. If you've read the book, of course, you are aware of how the story will end, and I think that in this case - with such a focused plot line - it has a negative impact for the viewer. Of course, the same effect would be had if the film were viewed first.

Anne Hathaway, as Emma, has come under a lot of negative criticism for her portrayal, or rather her accent has ..... I didn't think it was that bad: yes - she is supposed to be Yorkshire, and that wasn't in much evidence, but there were some nice moments in the Scottish section, where she had a slight Scottish lilt.

Anyway - coming back to the point: I don't think in the case of 'One Day' it really matters whether you read the book or see the film first, because they are both so true to each other ..... There are many instances, though, that a book can greatly enhance the film. I recently discovered that one of my favourite Ingrid Bergman films 'Goodbye Again' was in fact based on a novel by Francoise Sagan - 'Aimez Vous Bhrams ...'. The way that young woman wrote about love and how the need for it causes those in its grip to act in the most foolish and destructive of ways is truly remarkable, and I greatly prefer the book.

There's never going to be a definitive answer to this question, because it shifts with every new adaptation.

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