Turning Books into Films

by RS on July 10, 2010

screenplay

Last year I read all three of Stieg Larsson’s books–The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest--and when I learned the first book was made into a film in Sweden, I was curious of how it would play on the silver screen.

Thanks to Netflix, I had the chance to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Impressions? Had I not read the book, I would have thought it was a bit on the slow side. Playing the role of critic, I would have liked the characters more drawn out, and know more of their back story. The secondary subplot–Blomquist’s slander trial–was almost swept under the carpet, and the conclusion to me seemed rushed.

However I did read the first book (to read my review go to Alvah’s Books), and although the film it is long (it clocks at two hours and twenty six minutes), I think another forty minutes would have helped with my comments from above. Now who knows what was left on the cutting room floor or what the screenwriter kept in the first draft of his adapted screenplay.  All I know, since I did read the entire series, that the director and editor made a huge mistake tying the story up the way they did.  I say this because the relationships in the second book are different and there’s a reason why as shown in the last page of the first book (you can see I’m trying very hard not to divulge any spoilers). I’ve never written a screenplay, and I can see that you have to have a sharp and discriminating eye of what to dump and keep. The goal is to keep the story moving forward with the appropriate weighted amounts of action, tension, and worthy dialogue.  Not easy if you’re adapting a 600 page book that spans at least eight months into a two hour time frame.

Confession time: When I first seriously started to write, my goal was to write a screenplay because I LOVE the movies. Big film buff here. There was a time I used to go to the movies at least four times a week. The first story I wrote was supposed to be a screenplay, but I decided to make it into a novel because it was too long. And yes, I am a fan of epic-long films. I can easily sit through a four hour long movie.  But it appears that brevity is key to modern-day film making, and my  script would have probably been at least 500 pages long (its a very chatty story, long silences thrown in, and not much action. Hmm, sounds a little Swedish, eh?). So no screen-writing for me. At least not yet.

Does that mean I’m fooling around with the idea? Oh yes. In fact most of my story ideas play out like movies so it wouldn’t be too surprising that I try my hand at it. But the one book  I would like to be adapted into a film–one that’s mentioned multiple times in Julius–is Alvah Bessie’s Men in Battle.  It’s about Bessie’s experiences in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Published in 1939, Men in Battle received great reviews, unfortunately, it didn’t sell well. In part because World War II had just started and people were more concerned with current events and not to a recent one–that, by the way, was the precursor to the war.

Bessie did try at some point to adapt it into a screenplay, but he wanted to add a love interest, and also include Jim Lardner’s (son of short story writer Ring Lardner and brother of Ring Jr, Hollywood Ten compatriot of Bessie’s) within the story. It was titled The Volunteer. There was some interest, but it never panned out.

Personally, I feel that Men in Battle doesn’t need the romance or even the Lardner contribution to it. In my humble opinion, it should be adapted as the book stands, but with the emphasis on the relationship Bessie had with Aaron Lopoff, his young company commander. But, I would append an extra story within the story and that would include incorporating “My Brother, My Son” in series of flash forwards.

So among the numerous writing projects, Men in Battle is on the list. Maybe I’ll get to it sometime in the near future. In the meantime, I have a short story to write.

2 comments
Ardee-ann
Ardee-ann

Rebeca, your blogs are written with such passion and energy that I feel like a dull lug when I read them. I know that your focus now is on your short story but I do believe that you could write a great screenplay, you have a feel for action and that is important in a screenplay or script. I wish you well in your continued dreams and ambitions. You have great talent. May your star continue to shine brightly.

Ciao Bella,

Ardee-ann

RS
RS

Thanks so much for the kind words! I really try to liven these posts and at the same time provide some worthy info. Sometimes, though, I think I fall short, but the purpose of this blog is to chronicle what I'm learning about the writing experience. I just wish I had more readers! I guess I need to be a little more interactive with other writer/bloggers.

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