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Four Fiction Into Film

Affliction, A Room With A View, Emma, and The Age Of Innocence

If one had a nickel for every time one heard the expression “I liked the book better than the movie,” he or she would be a rich individual. Part of the reason for this is that the adaptation of a print work into film must be done without losing the voice and tone of the original work. David O. Selznick, legendary film producer of countless successful adaptations like Gone With The Wind, Rebecca, David Copperfield, and A Tale of Two Cities, was working on adapting Gone With The Wind for the screen when one of the many writers associated with the adaptation proposed he add material that was not in the original source. The book of Gone With The Wind had successfully captured the public imagination more than most novels ever have and bringing it to the screen was no insignificant task. Selznick explained to his writers that while he thought the public would forgive them anything they had to delete from the book, he was sure they would not forgive them adding things of their own invention in their stead. The film went on to capture the public imagination on a level comparable with the book, including standing as the highest box office grossing film for decades. One of the biggest reasons for the success of the screen version of Gone With The Wind was Selznick’s skill at faithfully keeping the voice and tone of the 800+ page novel in the film, albeit one that ran three hours plus.

Today’s filmmakers often prove less than successful at adapting literature for the screen. One of their biggest errors is not deleting material from the original source, as the format and time limitations of cinema basically demand it, but they err by deleting from the original source then adding material of their own invention. This analysis will focus on four novels that have been adapted for the screen: Russell Banks’ Affliction (directed by Paul Schrader), Jane Austen’...

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