9 movies as good as (or better than) the book

There is a special sense of tension that can take over a person when their favorite book is turned into a movie. Film history is littered freely with film adaptations that fall short of readers’ expectations (recall The hobbit or The Dark Tower For some intellectuals, you take your life into your own hands). Here are nine movies that have eased readers’ fears with great adaptations.

Today’s movie

9/9 In a lonely place (1950)

in a lonely place
Santana Productions

This 1950’s film frequently makes “best of” lists across film categories, mainly because it’s a masterful adaptation of the classic noir novel of the same name, written by Dorothy B. Hughes in 1947. The ever-incomparable Humphrey Bogart is Dixon Steele, an out-of-work screenwriter with a bad temper, played opposite Gloria Graham as his neighbor Laurel Gray. A new script for Dix coincides with the police suspecting him of murder; It is against this backdrop that Dex and Laurel fall in love somewhat awkwardly. The film was directed by Graham’s then-husband Nicholas Ray, and the two were in the process of an acrimonious breakup at the time, though no one else was known on the set. The film sticks closely to the source material, with the notable exception of the ending, but it captured the spirit of Hughes’ hard-boiled script so well that a reader would be hard-pressed to care about a change.

Related: Best Book for a Movie Adaptation, Rated

8/9 Death in Venice (1971)

Death in Venice 1971
Dear International

Dirk Bogarde was heartbreaking in Luchino Visconti’s 1971 adaptation of Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel. The story is about a lonely and aging composer dying of heart disease, who visits Venice for his health. His journey unfortunately coincides with an outbreak of cholera, but he finds himself unable to leave town after being beguiled by a pretty Polish boy named Tadzio. The novel’s main character is a writer rather than a composer, but the key allowed for the logical insertion of an overarching classical score. It’s a quiet, nuanced movie that leaves you breathless, just like the book.

7/9 Brideshead Revisited (1981)

Brideshead 1981 revisited
ITV Studios

Granted, the 1981 production is a TV mini-series rather than a movie, but it’s a master class in how to adapt a novel for the screen. Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews lead an all-star cast that includes Claire Bloom, Laurence Olivier, and John Gielgud. Each character seems to have sprung to life from Evelyn Waugh’s lavish 1945 novel. What was originally conceived as a six-part series was eventually expanded into 11, following the tangled relationships between a young Englishman and a wealthy family from the 1920s to the 1940s. From the acting to the period clothes to the locations to the dialogue (director Charles Sturridge estimated that 95% of the dialogue was taken directly from the script), there isn’t one wrong move. Thirty-five years after its release, it was still getting rave reviews, with The Telegraph naming it the greatest literary adaptation ever made for television, stating that it is “entirely faithful to Evelyn Waugh’s novel, and yet it’s more than that in a way”.

Related: 7 New York Times bestselling books about movies you need to see

6/9 The Star Hour (1985)

star hour
Keno International

Brazilian director Suzama Amaral is out on a limb to adapt Clarice Lispector’s 1977 novel star hour. It’s an elusive little book that never gets to 100 pages, and like all of Lispector’s work, it’s an intense and formally challenging book. The book examines the differences and difficulties between rural and urban areas of Brazil, inevitably focusing on a poor, uneducated young woman, completely ignored by society, who still deserves a story of her own. Although it works beautifully in the book, Amaral dispenses with the narrator, Rodrigo SM, and focuses solely on Macabéa, a girl who desperately dreams of a better life. Lead actress Marcelita Cartaxo deservedly won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 36th Berlin International Film Festival in 1986 for this role.

5/9 A Room with a View (1985)

Julian Sands and Helena Bonham Carter in a room with a view
Curzon Film Distributors / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

When it comes to British costume plays adapted from books, it is impossible not to mention the films of Ishmael Merchant and James Ivory. Any of their joint products could have made this list (perhaps most notably remains of the dayAnd the Howard’s endAnd the Mr. and Mrs. BridgeAnd the MauriceAnd the heat and dust), but there is something special that cannot be denied A room with a view, the first of three adaptations of EM Forster that the pair brought to the screen. A mix of up-and-coming young actors (Helena Bonham Carter, Daniel Day-Lewis, Rupert Graves) and veterans (Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Denholm Elliot) combined with breathtaking Florence scenery creates a sparkling atmosphere matched with wit. and the charm of Forster’s 1908 story of a young English girl who is transformed by a trip to Florence, right down to using the chapter titles to make sure you know what happens next.

4/9 Devil’s Tango (1994)

Satantango, directed by Bella Tarr in 1994
inspired movies

Not for the faint of heart, Bela Tarr’s black and white adaptation of fellow Hungarian Laszlo Krasznaorkay’s novel devil tango, The clocks in at about seven and a half hours. As in the novel, the film’s twelve segments move back and forth in tango-style chronological order, but as the novel moves at a fair clip with long paragraphs without line breaks, Tarr’s signature long shots (think eight minutes of cows, just cows) It gives the scenes a sense that the book is living in real time. The postmodern plot centers on a small village in the aftermath of the collapse of their collective farm, the monotony broken only by the expected return of two former co-workers. Despite having a preliminary screenplay, the film is largely improvised, with Tarr commenting, “We do have a story, but I think the story is only a fraction of the whole movie.” However, every scene in the book appears in the film, with the voice-over narrator often quoting directly from the text.

3/9 Trainspotting (1996)

Four Trainspotting actors
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

It was a pop culture phenomenon in every way: Irvine Welch’s 1993 novel took a group of heroin users in 1980s Edinburgh and rotated narrators in what was essentially a collection of short stories about the same people. It was violent, raw, and graphic, but also funny, thoughtful, and tragic. While it was nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize, Scottish slang’s stream-of-consciousness and unorthodox punctuation thrilled some readers. Danny Boyle’s 1996 movie sensation brought Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, and Bigby to life for both those who loved the book and those who found it difficult. The soulful soundtrack punctuates said music in the novel with Britpop earworms and electronic dance tracks from the ’90s, and the endearing care with which Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, and Robert Carlyle bring the lovable but despicable characters to life. their future careers (and sequels included), along with the movie and book’s place in history.

2/9 Kamikaze Girls (2004)

A scene from Kamikaze Girls

If you’ve ever seen a girl dressed in a gothic lolita (link), you can thank Novala Takemoto’s 2002 novel kamikaze girls, and the 2004 film adaptation (it also received a manga adaptation the same year as the film adaptation). It’s not widely known outside of the United States, but both the novel and the movie tell a charming and light-hearted story about a pair of oddballs. Momoko (played by Kyoka Fukada) is an outcast in her rural village, obsessed only with getting lolita clothes that make her stand out even more. Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya) is a member of a women’s motorcycle gang. The unlikely pair meet when Momoko tries to offload some of her father’s old illegal costumes to fund her own wardrobe. It’s a candy-colored dream of a movie that goes easy and ends happily, just like the book.

1/9 The Mustache (2005)


French writer Emmanuel Carrier directed this film adaptation of his own 1986 novel. It begins with the seemingly simple story of Marc (Vincent Lyndon) and his wife, Agnes (Emmanuelle DeVos). One day, on a whim, Mark shaves off the mustache he realizes Agnes has never seen without. When you see him next, you don’t mention it, and later in the evening, neither do two friends who visit for dinner. Mark is increasingly annoyed at what he perceives as a joke on his account, and angrily wants to know why no one has mentioned that he shaved his mustache. The movie turns into something else just as a confused Anis tells him he’s never had a mustache before. The world Mark knew began to fade along with his grip on reality, spiraling out of control, contingent on whether or not he actually had a mustache. Carrier’s novel That Rare Thing was a horror novel with no gore or jump scares, just psychological horror, and he accomplished the same thing with the movie version.

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