It’s not like that in the book

I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy last night – the film with Gary Oldman not the TV series with the wonderful Alec Guinness. I found the DVD in the remaindered section at Tesco and despite early misgivings born of experience thought it was worth a punt at a fiver.

As with many films of books I really love – it was a huge disappointment. I felt like a wet weekend afterwards and I had no choccy or popcorn to take away the pain – I’m on yet another expedition to discover the lost territory of the waistline.

It doesn’t help that I’m a very visual reader and have scenes and characters already mocked up so it’s the mismatch between the film of the book that’s running in my head and the by-blow that appears on the screen that causes a critical running commentary:

“That’s not right; it didn’t happen like that in the book; she would never have said that line in that way” and so on.

It’s not that I’m asking for scene by scene, word by word accuracy. I accept that the media are different and the audiences too.

It’s just the crassness of it all sometimes. For example, in TTSS here we have a double-agent, a mole who is virtually invisible as a character throughout the whole film until his unmasking when we are asked to accept him as a key character yet learn nothing of his motives – the reasons for betraying his country and comrades that are fundamental to the plot. There again…what plot? It’s absence was greatly lamented.

I wonder whether, with films of the classics, the more complicated yet still comprehensible language of the age is thought to be some sort of barrier to understanding? Do the long words and precision of speech have to be over-simplified and “modernised” for the audience? No, we’re not idiots who don’t know the difference between the 18th and 21st centuries. Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility pulls it off wonderfully well without recourse to kindergarten-land. It is one of my fave classics that has translated well.

I could go on, but I won’t because now I can feel a diatribe about remakes of classic films coming on. I mean why would anyone want to make a remake of The Italian Job or…

I’m off to pick up a paintbrush.

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5 thoughts on “It’s not like that in the book

  1. Noooooo. It’s the only shop in my town. The others shut down to watch films of books I love. And…what’s more I suspect from the tone of your comment (!!!) you think I’m a fuddy-duddy dinosaur. Ha! I’ll show ya 🙂

  2. I have to admit to liking the remake of Italian Job, but only because I didn’t know it was a remake. By the time I found out, it was too late. Though, I found that I liked both of them. As far as book vs. movie, I agree that they’re different mediums, so changes are expected. What riles me up are changes that aren’t necessary. Best example I have is the elves showing up at Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. In the first book of LOTR, the elves state that they’re down and going over the ocean with Legolas being one of the few (if not only elf) to remain to see that the ring is destroyed. Without going into the symbolism, it was just a horrible move to show more shiny-haired, pointy-eared, stunt-wielding warriors. So pointless additions to adaptations rile me up.

  3. The Micahel Caine Italian Job was the definitive one for me. But I so agree with you about the stupid skate-boarding antics of Legolas. It really jarred and up to that point I was really “into” the film. I thought Peter Jackson had really captured it. I love the book even tho’ (sorry about this) fantasy isn’t a genre I’d normally choose to read.

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