In my last blog post I wrote about feeling restless. That feeling hasn’t gone away completely, but I think I may have hit on a new direction I want to take with these posts. The idea came to me as I was listening to my favorite podcast, “What Do I Read Next”. Almost every guest Anne Bogel has on her show has a unique perspective about books. Some of them have created interesting businesses based on one thing they are interested in that are related to books and writing. I have found every one of Anne’s guests to have an interesting story to tell about what books mean to them, how they choose the books they read, how they organize their libraries, or how books have helped them find friends.
As I was listening to this week’s episode that little bit of inspiration I was asking for came to me. I have always loved movies. When I also became an avid reader, often a movie based on a book would grasp me so deeply that I wanted to read the source material. That is my preferred way to do it, see the movie first and then read the book. However, it’s okay if it happens the other way too, like when I read the Harry Potter series then saw the movies. I know enough about the movie making process that I can forgive not having my favorite book scenes included in the movie.
Thursday night I showed my dramatic structure class the movie, Cloud Atlas. It’s one of my favorites and happens to be one of those movies that sent me searching for the book. The movie had some mixed reviews because it weaves six timelines in and out of each other. Many people found it confusing. The book also has six timelines. The first story which seems to be a historical story, begins in 1849 and abruptly ends in the middle of a sentence. The book then picks up with a gay love story that takes place in 1936, then a mystery in 1973, a comedy in 2012, a dystopian science fiction in 2044 and finally a kind of hopeful fantasy/sci-fi story at the center which takes place in the far future. Once that last story is told, the book continues with the 2044 timeline and the plot moves backward through the timelines ending with the 1849 story. If the movie were structured that way, it would most likely be boring.
One thing I’ve learned by osmosis, and from taking a few film classes is that there are lots of techniques that film makers use to help the audience understand what’s going on. Most of the time we don’t notice the camera angles, shot lengths, details of the setting, costumes, props, lighting and music that give the audience clues about plot and characters. There are also little snippets of dialogue that seem to be offhand, but later play a big part in the plot. The screen play has to pair down the book plot, and as in the case of Cloud Atlas must be structured differently to tell each timeline’s story in an interesting way.
Maybe that’s what I find so fascinating. Movie makers take a book and select the most important parts of it to convey its message to an audience. To do that they use all sorts of visual cues to help us connect emotionally to the characters and story. In my mind, if a movie team succeeds and makes a fabulous movie, that makes me want to go to the source material to see how the movie compares with the book.
I wrote all of the above to say that I’m thinking of writing more posts about movie/book connections that have been both enjoyable and sometimes life changing for me. After telling Barry, my husband, about this idea I began to make a list in my head of all of the movies and mini-series that have inspired me to go find the book. The list is long and varied. Some movies are classics like Ben Hur, or The Valley of Decision, while others are modern retellings of classic novels, still others are based on contemporary books. I was also surprised to find how many different genres are represented in my list.
This project is going to take a long time but I’m looking forward to sharing my favorites with you from time to time.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.
Have a fun weekend. We’re off to see Black Panther. Who knows maybe I’ll begin reading graphic novels next.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.