As The Great Gatsby opens, what makes a good book adaptation, anyway?

I couldn’t get more than a paragraph into this article on “what makes a good book adaptation,” but maybe you’ll have better luck:

As The Great Gatsby opens, what makes a good book adaptation, anyway?
Baz Luhrmann is the latest to try translating a celebrated book to the big screen, but there’s danger in being too faithful to the text.

Gatsby fever won’t break until Baz Luhrmann’s new adaptation opens this week, but this fifth film version of F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel raises an interesting question: what makes a good adaptation, anyway? Why does Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining merit documentaries in its own right, and Stephen King’s The Shining end up forgotten among the made-for-TV mini-series? What should we hope for – or fear – from Luhrmann’s take?

Adapting a novel or short story into film is a lot translation – turning words on a page into the language of movies: angles, actors and images. Filmmakers, like translators, are stuck in the middle between the original and the audience, and have to balance three elements: story, style and ambition.

As The Great Gatsby opens, what makes a good book adaptation, anyway? | Alan Yuhas | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

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About Kevin L. Ferguson

Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing at Queens
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3 Responses to As The Great Gatsby opens, what makes a good book adaptation, anyway?

  1. In this week’s New Yorker, David Denby gives the film (and Luhrmann) quite a thrashing: “Luhrmann’s version is merely a frantic jumble. The picture is filled with an indiscriminate swirling motion, a thrashing impress of ‘style’ (Art Deco turned to digitized glitz), thrown at us with whooshing camera sweeps and surges and rapid changes of perspective exxagerated by 3-D…. Gatsby’s excess–his house, his clothes, his celebrity guests–is designed to win over his beloved Daisy. Luhrmann’s vulgarity is designed to win over the young audience, and it suggests that he’s less a filmmaker than a music-video-director with endless resources and a stunning absence of taste.”
    Ouch.

  2. I’m sorry Steven, all of your points are invalid. Didn’t you hear? Jay-Z, will.i.am, and Beyonce made songs for the 3D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book about the death of the American dream and the heartless upper class set in the 1920’s. What more can you ask for, citizen?

  3. We would all be having this discussion in the lobby of the theater (instead of jawing about Ghost World) had they not kept moving the release date around.

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