I recently saw the film that I think will be my number one film of 2010. It's called Winter's Bone and is based on a book by Daniel Woodrell. As part of the promotion for the film, we're doing giveaways of the novel and I managed to get my hands on a copy. Nine times out of ten, I say the book is better than the film. Somehow my imagining of the story always seems more compelling than that of the filmmaker. But every now and again, the film is just as good, if not better than the book. I think Winter's Bone is a case where the film is just as good, but I want to talk here about the few occasions I think the film is better.
The first case, is Atom Egoyan's film of Russell Bank's novel The Sweet Hereafter. Now Russell Banks is one of my favourite authors. Rule of the Bone, Affliction and his short story collection Trailer Park are all on the top shelf of my bookcase where the treasure, many-times re-read books go. And I liked the book of The Sweet Hereafter, don't get me wrong, but I think the film just works better. Egoyan's trademark fractured narrative style works well with the multiple perspective approach Banks takes int he book. But the main thing that I think makes the film better, is the addition of the pied piper story as a motif running through the film. It underlines the film's central theme, and connects the before and after times in a subtle, non-obtrusive way.
The second film I believe is better than the book on which it is based is Francis Ford Coppolla's Rumble Fish, based on the novel by S E Hinton. Shot in expressionistic black and white, the film doesn't take liberties with the plot of the book. But by taking it out of a specific time and place, the story becomes a universal one. It is also an incredibly beautiful film with an unsettling soundtrack by Stuart Copeland. Interestingly, it was shot back to back with Coppolla's glossy, sentimental cinematic adaptation of Hinton's The Outsiders, a film that doesn't hold a candle to the book in my eyes.
I am sure there are other examples. Certainly I think both The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, adapted from Stephen King by Frank Darabont are better films than they are books, but then, I've never been a huge fan of Stephen King as a writer.
Can anyone else think of examples where the film is better than the book? Or probably a much longer post, where the film completely ruins a book?