Perfectly Adaptable

by Ashley Choudry

Hello and welcome to November’s Library film blog. If you haven’t guessed it yet (by the title alone), this month’s focus is on adaptations. We won’t be looking at just any adaptations however, we’ll be focusing on four films, all of which have been noted as some of the most faithful book-to-screen adaptations of all time. From a historical drama and fantasy fiction, to a Romantic period tale, we have everything in this month’s collection.

First up we have 80’s gem Stand by Me (1986), directed by Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, A Few Good Men) and based on the acclaimed Stephen King’s novel, The Body (1982).

Cover of Stand by Me DVD

Far from being King’s most famous novella, it was adapted into one of the more famous films based upon his literary works. It stars a range of young actors of the time including Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: TNG, The Big Bang Theory), Corey Feldman (The Goonies), Kiefer Sutherland (Young Guns, 24) and the late River Phoenix (Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade); its title is derived from the world-famous Ben E. King song of the same name.

While prone to dramatic moments, it is more of a coming-of-age film, a tale of a group of friends as they grow together (in age and intelligence). The narrative is told from the perspective of Gordon ‘Gordie’ Lachance (Wheaton) in his adult years, throughout the film as he recounts his and his friends’ journey for a memoir he is writing. The aforementioned journey begins in Oregon, in September 1959. On one particular weekend of this month, Geordie and his group of three friends decide to set out on a hike in search of the body of a missing teenage boy (presumed dead due to his prolonged absence from society), in the vain hope they would be rewarded if they were to find him. What follows is a daring adventure that will test the groups friendship, plus both their physical & mental strength.

The film was a prodigious success with critics (with a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, although not as such with audiences at the time, but it has since become a cult classic), and King himself considered it the first successful transition to film of any of his works. So, discover one of the early most impressive adaptations of a book into film only on Planet e-stream now, and watch a clip from the beginning of the story to entice you further in the link below:

This month I have decide to list the films in chronological order in terms of release, so for our next entry we move on a decade and turn our attention to the seminal, Sense & Sensibility (1995).

Cover of Sense and Sensibility DVD

A period drama, directed by Ang Lee and adapted from Jane Austen’s renowned 1811 novel, it is seen by many as one of the quintessential book-to-film adaptations of all time. The story sees the Dashwood sisters, Eleanor & Marianne – played by Dame Emma Thompson (Much Ado About Nothing, Nanny McPhee) and Kate Winslet (Titanic) respectively – thrust from their home and bestowed with sudden destitution (cut off from their inheritance), after their half-brother John disobeys his father’s dying wish for him to take care of them.

Despite being members of wealthy English family of landed gentry, they find themselves with nothing due to their gender (a very hindering disadvantage of those times) rendering unable to receive any inheritance from their dead father, and the innate greed of John’s wife. In order to overcome this obstacle, the sisters decide to seek financial security through marriage (a method much more acceptable in those times). The majority of the feature details their search for potential suitors, and showcases a near perfect blend of romance and comedy.

Also starring Alan Rickman (Harry Potter, Die Hard) and Hugh Grant (Love Actually, Bridget Jones Diary) among others, it is the third adaptation of this particular Austen novel, yet possibly the most influential one of all. For in addition to receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews (from critics and public audiences alike), it became something of a phenomenon, sparking a renaissance in interest in Austen’s works and a slew of new productions focused on the period drama genre.  Sense & Sensibility is available now on e-stream and can also be found on DVD in the Library. Catch a snippet of both the comedic and romantic sides of this film in the link below:

We now move on a further decade, to the so called “noughties,” switching our attention to the romantic fantasy Stardust (2007).

Cover of Stardust DVD

Based upon Neil Gaiman’s 1999 novel of the same name, it follows a young man called Tristan who sets out on a dangerous quest of the heart (which has a sudden change throughout the course of his journey). As laid out by her terms, Tristan enters the magical kingdom of Stormhold in order to collect what he simply believes to be a fallen star, to give to his love Victoria in exchange for her hand in marriage.  The star itself however, is revealed to be so much more, and he must risk his life to protect it from both witches and the princes of the kingdom; all while desperately endearing to reach his beloved before her birthday (also part of her terms for marriage).

Known even more for its illustrious theme song, Take That’s ‘Rule The World’ (their second biggest selling single ever), than its impressive cast (featuring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Mark Strong, Ricky Gervais and more), Stardust received mostly positive reviews yet is still overlooked by most audiences to this day. As for its adaptation of the source material, it was seen as ultimately faithful by a consensus of critics. Packed full of heartfelt moments, fantastical action and wonderous visionary moments, it is certainly not something to be missed. You can ‘Ride on a star’ all the way to Stormhold yourself only on DVD, available now in the Library. Enjoy some of the unexpected humour you will find throughout, in this teasing scene in the link below:

At long last we reach the 2010’s, as we look to conclude this month’s blog. As this month is primarily known as a month of remembrance for those who lost their lives in war, I considered it rather appropriate that we end with a WWI influenced film, War Horse (2011).

Cover of War Horse DVD

Adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s highly acclaimed novel of the same name (also turned into an award-winning play), it tells the story of Joey, a young mare raised by British teenager Albert, and his journey before and during World War I. Told from Joey’s unique perspective his story begins in the year 1912, with his birth and then being bought at auction by Albert’s father. After successfully helping to plough the fields of the family’s farm, Joey is bought by the British Army after war is declared in 1914 (and heavy rain ruins the crops on the family’s farm), and shipped abroad to serve as a ‘War Horse’.

The film continues to display Joey’s encounters with numerous individuals and his abundant amount of new owners (one of whom is portrayed by the dashing Tom Hiddleston himself), all while he endures the rigorous tragedies of war. Meanwhile, Albert perilously tries his best to be reunited with Joey, eventually signing up to join the war effort himself. It’s a truly remarkable tale of a boy (then man) and his love for a horse, brought to life on screen with stunning imagery, courtesy of the magnificent vision of director Steven Spielberg.

Like the other entries in this blog, it was seen as an almost flawless adaptation of the book and play and even invoked quite the emotional response in its own right. As Richard Corliss, a critic for TIME Magazine said, “War Horse will leave only the stoniest hearts untouched.” War Horse is available to watch now on both DVD and e-stream. Enjoy a small portion of the epic adventure by clicking the link below to view the official teaser trailer:

Adaptations of famous books usually work out one of two ways, they are either a big success or a big failure (a few do manage to fit somewhere in the middle of the scale). These four films however, are all at the top of scale in terms of authenticity. In addition, they’re also great features in their own right, a terrific watch even if you haven’t read or don’t know about the books that came before. They may not contain nearly as much content as the paper they come from, but they entertain just the same. So, try one or all of them out today through the Library Services collection, be it on DVD or Planet e-stream. If for some reason adaptations of books aren’t your thing don’t worry, just remember;

Christmas time is just around the corner…

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