There can be nothing more exciting for an author than having a movie made of your book. It must genuinely be one of the best feelings to think you have produced a story so compelling it’s worth transitioning into a completely different media (not to mention spending millions of dollars on doing so). I would certainly be excited. Admittedly, I am still to complete the first step in this process: writing a book! Despite the excitement for the author, there is an all too familiar concern raised by readers – what if the film isn’t any good?
Earlier this year I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time. It is, I admit, the first time I have read a book after watching the film, in this case the Francis Ford Coppola version. I remember loving the film, with its tagline of “Love never dies”. Oldman, Ryder, Hopkins and Reeves led the cast guaranteeing some fantastic acting. What grabbed me most about the film was the use of the Count’s origin story and his pursuit of Mina to create a character that was almost sympathetic. This complexity made this film much more than a simple good vs. bad vampire hunting flick.
However, as I read through Bram Stoker’s opus, excited to see this love story played out in its original state it became apparent that it wasn’t there. There was no great love story stretching across the ages. In fact, I would go as far as to say there were no redeeming features to the Count. He was simply a bloody beast of legend and superstition. However, the more I read the more I understood that this book was not simply a clash of good and evil. Far more than that, this is a tale about the confrontation of old and new, science against superstition. Mina’s role becomes far more interesting in the book than the film. Rather than playing the love interest, her relationship with Jonathon Harker is more of a partnership. Her engagement with, and enjoyment of, new technology marking her out as a modern woman. True she isn’t Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Lara Croft, but her role in the book is central and multi-faceted. Its no surprise that at the end of the book it is Mina, the men of science, the lawyer and the former soldier turned businessman that stand triumphant whilst the Count and the Texan hunter fall; the modern world wins.
The book truly intrigued and excited me. I found myself wondering if I had been blinded by the shiny special effects of Hollywood and a few big names? I did the only thing I could do, watched the film again. It was still awesome. I have written about retellings of stories before, and now more than ever I stand by those thoughts. Using the same characters the storytellers have created very different stories, both of which are compelling, complex and well suited to the media they have been told in.
Yes, it’s easy to spot the difference between most films and the books they have been inspired by. What is difficult, particularly with books we love, is seeing the story told differently to what we expect. If I ever get around to writing that book, the one someone wants to turn into a film, I think I will be excited. However, when I turn up for the premiere, I will probably do my best to forget what I wrote. That way I can enjoy the film for what it is.