Tag Archives: the princess bride

What is it About Adaptations?

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Hello, reader!  Got any exciting plans for your weekend?

Last night I went to see Headlong’s production of 1984 at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.  The performances were excellent, the design was incredibly inventive and the concept was inspired.  I won’t say anymore in case you’re planning to see it for yourself, and I really think that you should go if you get the chance.

It’s difficult to make an excellent adaptation of a novel like 1984 for two reasons: firstly, the concept of the novel itself is pretty complex, and pinning down the issues of mind control, sanity, truth and fiction are hard to do off the page.  Secondly, the novel is a well-loved and respected work that many people feel strongly about.  If Headlong had got it wrong, they would have been unpersoned by the critics.

An adaptation of any beloved work of fiction runs the same risk.  The Harry Potter films came under massive fire (just from my social circle) for being completely unfaithful to the books, and reducing cleverly constructed plot lines to unsteady, baffling narrative turns.  There were also many debates about the casting: Emma Watson was too posh (and WAY too fond of acting with her eyebrows), Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t likeable enough, and Dobby was an atrocity.

People are already up in arms about the potential casting of Harry Styles in a movie adaptation of Wicked, but I wonder how many of them know that the musical stage production is already an adaptation of a novel.  The novel is completely different in tone to the musical, and when I read it for the first time I wondered who on earth would read this dark, disturbing story and think “Well, that’s got singing and dancing written all over it.”  Don’t get me wrong: I saw the musical a few years ago and loved it, but in my head it isn’t an adaptation of the novel in the traditional sense.  It’s just too different.

And this is the interesting thing: what is it about adaptations that provokes such strong reactions in us?  When we read a book we get a unique picture in our minds of the characters, the settings and the story, which have been guided by the author but not prescribed.  When we see an adaptation of a novel on screen or stage,the directors have had to try and compile every reader’s mental picture into a universal picture that cannot possibly match up to everyone’s expectations.

Is it better to take a well-known story and try to match it exactly to its original medium, like William Goldman managed with his adaptation of the The Princess Bride?  (Although he had a significant advantage, given that he was adapting his own novel.)  Or is it best to recognise that one medium cannot possibly imitate another – which is why they all exist, in fact – and that an adaptation has to be a kind of translation of a piece in order to make it work?  Wicked in its original essence would not make a good musical; it’s too depressing (but brilliant, by the way).  It needed to be translated into the kind of story that works in the West End with big sets and even bigger smiles, and it is a good show.  It’s just not a faithful adaptation.

I think that part of the issue is the cashmere-wearing, cigar-smoking, bling-adorned elephant in the room: we can all see that making successful novels and plays into films is about making money, not about making the piece accessible to more people.  It’s the reason that The Hobbit is being strangled to death by a painfully laboured and ridiculously patch-worked adaptation into three epically long films.  Shame on you, Peter Jackson.  Shame on you.

In general, I do approve of adaptations.  I like seeing other people’s ideas of a well-known story shown in new ways, and I enjoy the possibilities of a translation from medium to medium.  I just wish that the motive was always the exploration of worlds, not the expansion of wallets.

Have the most awesome of Fridays.

Top Ten Lessons Not to Learn from Rom-Coms

Hello, lovely reader! Congratulations on being half-way through the week.  You’re doing great.

Today I’ve been thinking about romantic comedy films, and how quickly we are willing to exchange our common sense for warm and fuzzy feelings.  Don’t get me wrong: I love rom-coms, and Richard Curtis provides me and my friends with ample opportunity to waste an evening bewailing our boringly realistic love lives, but seriously.  The morals and attitudes encouraged by Hollywood’s happy endings are appalling.

If we actually examine the lessons in rom-coms instead of concentrating on the smouldering glances and mushy moments, we can see that these films are dangerous.  They could create a generation of women who will negotiate the dating world with all the skill and success of a neo-Nazi who has halitosis.  (This may be slightly melodramatic, but you know what I mean.)

As I said, I do love these films, but I also worry that there’s some murky moral ground being covered.  Here are some lessons that I really hope none of us learn from our favourite romantic comedies:

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1) Grease

If your boyfriend is nice to you when you’re alone and acts like an asshat in front of his friends, get a makeover and wear clothes tight enough to give you gangrene.  That’ll get him back.  Obviously, you are the one who is not good enough and you need to adapt to his shallowness.

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2) Pretty Woman

Go on the game.  A handsome, rich and charming man will inevitably sweep you off your feet and fall madly in love with you.  You will definitely not get pregnant, contract a horrible disease or be putting yourself in serious harm’s way every night.  Not even a little bit.

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3) Four Weddings and a Funeral

Be horrible to a guy for ages, sleep with him a bit, get engaged to someone else, sleep with him again, take him WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING and then turn up on his doorstep just after he gets punched in the face at the altar.  Also, lose the ability to notice basic environmental factors like whether it’s raining or not.

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4) Bridget Jones’ Diary

Waddle everywhere.  Colin Firth will totally fall for you.

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5) Serendipity

Let the amazing guy you just met get away because a piece of paper flew away.  Obviously it’s fate and not just the traffic passing you by in the middle of a New York highway.

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6) America’s Sweethearts

Keep quiet about your feelings for years, and then get annoyed with the guy without explaining yourself.  Also, spend your entire life slaving away after your bratty sister.  Way to respect yourself.

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7) The Princess Bride

When the love of your life reappears after a few years, completely ignore his height, voice and facial features.  A few inches of eye mask should completely obscure any idea you might have about his identity.  Sure, you love him, but you’re blind and deaf, ok?

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8) 10 Things I Hate About You

Lead a guy on for as long as you can, and only be nice to him when he’s gone through ridiculous amounts of nonsense to make you happy.  If your big sister has ideals and can be a bit snappy about them, make sure that you use her as a pawn in your relationship games.  Being manipulative means that you deserve your happy ending; after all, you’ve worked for it.  Or at least your boyfriend has.

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9) Friends With Benefits

Define what you want from your relationship with a guy, and then completely change your mind.  Make sure that he is unaware of this for as long as possible.  Remember, only a flash mob is enough to regain your attention, preferably in a busy train station at peak time.

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10) One Day

Keep chasing the unobtainable guy who probably wouldn’t make you happy anyway, and in the meantime settle for someone you don’t really love.  Also, change your accent a lot.

Have a great Wednesday, and please enjoy your rom-coms responsibly.