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Monday, January 25, 2010

Hollywood and the Classics

I have a bone to pick with Hollywood. When they make a movie based on a classic novel, don't the writer and director owe even a modicum of respect to the author by being true to the story? Obviously in a two hour film, it's impossible to cover a 400 or 500 page book, so why not just tell part of the story authentically. Leave out the minor plots and be true to what you tell. But to take a story and gut it and produce something utterly different makes using the original title ludicrous.

The other night my husband and I watched Robinson Crusoe with Pierce Brosnan. It wasn't a bad movie, but it sure wasn't Robinson Crusoe. It began with a a duel over a woman which motivated Crusoe's fleeing to sea. Nope, no woman in the story. (Which would mean omitting the mandatory nude scene.) Crusoe left England against his parents' wishes because he didn't want to study law and wanted adventure. The film left out all of Crusoe's adventures before the shipwreck which was understandable. Some of his activities on the island were true to the book.

However, when he and Friday leave the island and return to Friday's village, they are forced by the inhabitants to engage in a fight to the death to see who would be allowed to live. Nope! total fabrication, new story. So is Crusoe's rescue by slave traders, Friday's demise, and Crusoe's return to his lady love in England. His 28-year adventure was compressed into six - no doubt to preserve the love story. After all, two doddering lovers hobbling toward each other with canes wouldn't be very romantic.

Hey, Hollywood, if you want to write your own story, do it. But please give it another name. Disney's Pocahantis, which was a complete fiction, should have been called "Indian Princess." Robinson Crusoe could have been called "Marooned." Stop stealing other people's titles and make up your own since you feel free to make up everything else within the covers of the book.

An even better solution might be to save the classics for TV. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth runs what? (six hours I think), but is a beautiful tribute to Jane Austen and, with only a few exceptions, totally true to the story. I certainly can't say that about Robinson Crusoe.

So, kids, if you're assigned the book and are too lazy to read it, don't depend on the movie. Use the cliff notes instead.


Dolorosa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dolorosa said...

Watch this about Hollywood:

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Hi Dolorosa, the link doesn't work. Want to try again?

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the Robinson Crusoe you're referring to, but I completely agree with you regarding Pride & Prejudice. In fact, just the other night I watched the new version for the 2nd time, thinking that maybe my initial dislike of it was a fluke. But no, I still didn't like it, on many levels. I had to watch the BBC/A&E version over the weekend to cleanse!

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I haven't seen the latest Pride and Prejudice, but I had a friend who went with her teenage daughter who kept saying, "This is NOT Pride and Prejudice!" Good girl!