On Saturday, I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. I loved it and thought it was a really beautiful interpretation of the books. The colors in the film are gorgeous. All of the blue, grey, and white tones as they wander through winter…so perfect. The emotional beats when portraying the relationship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron are so well done. It is, of course, the darkest of all the books and I thought the film depicted that wonderfully especially with the scenes at the ministry, at Godric’s Hollow, and with Bellatrix. The story of ‘The Three Brothers’ was absolutely amazing. For those of you haven’t seen it yet, that part was, for me, a surprising treat.
In reading some reactions to the film so far, I’ve seen that a lot of people like this seventh film because it is ‘the most accurate’. It does not stray far from the books and, because they’ve split the film in two parts, it is better able to take it’s time and tackle more scenes from the book. These kinds of reactions made me think a lot about the expectations we have when we walk into a film adaptation of a popular book.
It sounds to me like a lot of people get really angry if a film strays too far from the original plot of a book. People tend to like a straight interpretation. They don’t like a director changing the order that things happen or adding scenes that were not in a book or leaving out important parts of a book or, particularly, changing the ending. They walk in expecting ‘the book’ and if they don’t get ‘the book’ they are disappointed.
I’m kind of torn about this.
I’ve loved every Harry Potter film because it’s brought the books alive for me. Sometimes characters or environments didn’t look the way I expected them to, but I’ve always accepted the choices they’ve made in the film and, in most cases, applauded them. It’s the filmmaker’s vision. Not mine. I haven’t done a strict analysis of book to film (have any of you?) but I’ve never left any of the films in a huff thinking that they destroyed the books or completely misinterpreted them. Sometimes I wondered why they may have left something out or extended a scene that wasn’t so long in the book, but, I’ve never thought that there were giant leaps made from one to the other.
There are also things that the film brought to me that the books did not. Even though Rowling’s descriptions are very detailed, the majesty of Hogwarts, characters coming to life in portraits and pictures, moving stairwells, and quidditch arenas were brought to me in ways I couldn’t have imagined, in much grander, more magical ways, and I’m grateful for that.
However, there are two film adaptations of books that I struggled with because, in my opinion, they went to far. “The Namesake” which is one of my favorite books of all time. And “My Sister’s Keeper” which is a book I didn’t love, but found an entertaining read. In “The Namesake” the film follows the mother’s story, while the book follows her son’s story. That is a major departure and one I didn’t like, even though I still enjoyed the film on it’s own. In the film version of “My Sister’s Keeper” the ending was sold off to Hollywood and is vastly different from what happens in the book, to a point where I found it offensive that the filmmaker would go in such an opposite direction.
For the most part, I am open to film adaptations. I’m open to learning something new about a book, adding some scenes, changing dialogue, perhaps even going off into a new plot direction. Mostly, I can separate a book from a film and judge it on it’s own. But a reinvention of the story rather than an interpretation doesn’t always work for me.
How important is it for you to see a film that portrays a book accurately? What kinds of changes from book to film can you accept? What can you not accept?