The Book and the Movie

16 July 2009

This week, after seeing the latest Harry Potter movie installment and finishing reading In a Lonely Place, I was thinking about the liberties taken with interpreting written fiction for the screen. Not having made it to the sixth book, I could take Harry Potter 6 as I found it, unfettered by noticing, as my more widely-read movie companion did, what was left out, what was really from the seventh book… The Potter movies struggle to streamline the length of the original source. It remains a plot-driven, visually-inventive story, though

The movie can bear little relation to the orignal source, though.


In a Lonely Place, the 1947 thriller by Dorothy B. Hughes, is so unlike the film noir classic of the same name that you have to wonder why the filmmakers didn’t pick a new title and new names for the characters. The changes from the book to the screen go well beyond those necessary to bring the inner life of the characters to the screen. The book shadows the main character, a serial killer in Los Angeles (always known to the reader) . Unlike the book,  the film (which contains only one of the murders) is “interested neither in creating mystery nor in following a process of detection….Above plot [the film] promotes character and both psycholgical and social portraiture, using the suspicion of murder as a pressure to dramatise the course of a romance from the discovery of love to its disintegration.” (V. F. Perkins’ essay on the film in The Book of Film Noir) (The poster above, though, seems to push the mystery/suspense aspect).

Does anyone, not having read the assigned book for book club, take the chance and instead watch the movie version? (When I was kid, I think some kids thought the Classics Illustrated comic books would cover their book report assignment…) Don’t assume just because you know the book, you know the movie (or other way round).


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