Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Nineteen

The Book Meme Challenge: Favorite book turned into a movie

The somewhat awkward thing about my answer to this is that when I like a movie based off a book, inevitably I’ve been exposed to the movie first and find the book later.  By that point, the movie has dug tendrils into my brain such that even if it’s different from the book, I can no longer dislike the movie on that account.  They are separate entities, though very close.

Why is this strange?  Because any time I read and love a book first, then see how the movies diverge from it (Harry Potter franchise, I’m looking at you), I get extremely upset.  Doubtless you have encountered this a hundred times, either in other book fans or perhaps in yourself.  The more strident the protests, the more ridiculous they sound.  I’m thinking of switching to decaf.

In the meantime, there are no less than four (FOUR!  I know, I’m awful) book/movie combinations which I find particularly leoflic:

Pride and Prejudice

My first exposure to Pride and Prejudice was playing the part of Charlotte Lucas in a high school play.  It was fun, but necessarily left out all of Austen’s prose, such that I wasn’t particularly eager to find the novel and read it.  When the Joe Wright version came out in 2005, I saw it with a friend and came away with the impression (made much vaguer by years) that Darcy’s love speech was Quite Something.  I wondered whether Austen or the scriptwriter made it so.  Therefore I went home, found the novel online, and stayed up until perhaps 4 AM clicking from chapter to chapter.

When I reached chapter 58, I found that Austen did not set down any speeches beyond “he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do.”  Provoking!  And yet, it might be the only way for a speech to satisfy everyone: you can dream any words you want into it.

Thereafter, when brought to watch the BBC version partway through my college career, I was in fact acquainted with the book, and thus greatly pleased by BBC’s faithfulness to the narrative.   Not only that, but I found Jennifer Ehle’s features better suited than Kiera Knightley’s in showing how Lizzie, for all her impertinence and bright eyes, generally behaves as a lady of that period ought to – and when she doesn’t, the contrast between her actions and what was expected is heightened by Ehle’s countenance.  The newer movie also makes a few mistakes; as a friend pointed out, Lady Catherine de Bourgh would never condescend to visiting Longbourne in the middle of the night.  Six hours gives the BBC enough time to get such details right, and the result is a winner.


This will sound familiar: the friend with whom I went to see Joe Wright’s P&P accompanied me to see Charlie Cox in Stardust, which I enjoyed so much that I fetched Neil Gaiman’s book from the library…

The movie has much to recommend it: an oft-rebuffed young suitor attempting to win a girl’s heart by going off and fetching her back a fallen star (which he supposes will be something like a meteorite); three sons fighting for succession of their father’s throne; witches fighting for youth; sweeping New Zealand vistas; a unicorn; excellent scene changes; spells put on and spells taken off.  There is also a fight scene that will be distressing to those unprepared for the sight of a pirate in drag, so brace yourself for that.

When I read the book, I found that some aspects of the plot were changed – Tristran’s name became Tristan, to start with, and he receives help from rather different quarters.  Gaiman himself noted that he spent about a paragraph describing the pirate ship, which the moviemakers brought to life in painstaking, life-sized detail.  The book’s flavor is also different: certain characters I liked well enough in the movie became unpleasant, or vice-versa; a spell which was broken in a very matter-of-fact way in the movie was broken in a more whimsical fashion in the book; and the endings even differ.  But having seen the movie first, I manage to approve of both of them.  They may have rather different approaches to the world of Faerie, but both give the audience a bit of a peek through the Wall.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I have not read this book nor watched this movie recently enough for my own contentment.  Both are delightful, and winsome, and rather dangerous at certain junctures – though I will say that an abridged audio book on youTube and a look through Wikipedia give me to understand that the movie shifts things around a fair amount, such that it might be more accurate to say the movie is very loosely based on the book.  Both end up in approximately the same place, but book-Sophie has a good deal more power; her sisters are more interesting and involved; fire demons figure a tad more prominently; and the country of Wales is mentioned briefly.  In the movie, a certain character evokes sympathy she doesn’t call up in the book; broken hearts and John Donne curses step back; and wars, magic rings, and bird-men fly forward.  And somehow Sophie ends up in the future, according to The Internet.  I’d forgotten that bit completely!

What I hadn’t forgotten was the eerie quality when the Baba Yaga-like castle walked over the moors, Howl’s plaintive moans when his hair spells went awry and turned his hair funny colors, Sophie’s walks with Turnip-Head, Howl covered in feathers, and a star falling to earth…

Here are two bits from the book:

In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

By now it was clear that Howl was in a mood to produce green slime any second. Sophie hurriedly put her sewing away. “I’ll make some hot buttered toast,” she said.
“Is that all you can do in the face of tragedy??” Howl asked. “Make toast!”

Here’s a quote of Howl in the movie, since the only available snippets appear to be on Disney’s site:

Now I’m repulsive…I can’t live like this…  …I give up…I see no point in living if I can’t be beautiful…

Pardon me, I think I must be off to take a stroll through the clouds now…once I’ve discussed

The Princess Bride

There’s no way I could let this one pass by, although I’m having difficulty finding words for it outside quoting the whole thing.  The Princess Bride is one of a few movies that I’ve watched and re-watched enough to memorize in part (which I know others can claim just as easily, but other people seem to spend much more time watching movies than I do).  The frame-tale of the book (which I first read last year) is preserved in the grandfather reading his ill grandson the story.  Though the movie spends a lot less time on backstory (where Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik are concerned), and leaves out Inigo and Fezzik’s trip through the Zoo of Death, it is otherwise faithful: the Fire Swamp, the castle gates, and death itself are overcome.  The casting is perfect.  The script is excellent and lends itself well to quoting.

I love the grandfather pausing to say “She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time,” then losing his place and having to backtrack, as well as Westley shouting “AS YOU WISH” while tumbling downhill, and also how Fezzik says the word “lady” when relating how he claimed the horses.  Not to mention Vizzini’s use of “Inconceivable!” and Inigo considering piracy as a second career.  Delightful.

And wuv, tru wuv, will fowwow you…foweva.


3 thoughts on “Book Meme: ‘Psichore’s Day Nineteen

  1. Good good choices! I approve of them all!!!! We should watch Howl’s Moving Castle whenever we are in a similar geographic situation again . . . .

  2. Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favorite movies! I read the book after seeing the movie, and although they changed a lot of things, I loved that in the book, Howl could look through a certain window in his house and see, well, something else (I don’t want to spoil it!).

  3. Pingback: Seeking Song and Story | Egotist's Club

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