5 Books That Should Never Be Made Into Films

Yesterday I was reading an interesting list on cinemablend about their five novels they thought should never be made into films. This was a very interesting concept to me, seeing as how one of my hobbies is comparing novels to their film interpretations. I ask, what do novels add to films? What subtleties do films miss from the novels? More often than not the novel is better than the film. But there are those rare circumstances when, in fact, the film is better than the novel.

So without further adieu, my 5 novels that should never be made into films:

1) Nightwood – Djuna Barnes

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Nightwood is a twisted and torrid account of a love affair, and one of the first novels to explicitly detail homosexuality. The novel, however, is at times incomprehensible. A beautiful novel which recounts the effect the character Robin has on the other players. Robin is in a perpetual motion moving away from that which makes her unhappy without any real notion of what actually makes her happy. To really outline how difficult this novel is to read at times, T.S. Eliot proclaimed that “only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it.” The novel is essentially poetry written in novel form, any attempt to make this novel into a film would destroy the absolute poetry one encounters while reading it. In fact this is a novel more about the poetry than it is about the plot or narration.

2) Island – Aldous Huxley

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Aldous Huxley’s final work Island and the sister to his influential novel Brave New World. The Island for Huxley represents his ideal Utopia. It chronicles many of his ideals for society, culture and economy. In fact many of the favorable conditions he outlines in Island are in direct opposition to those in Brave New World (Wiki does an excellent job showing the opposition). The novel also uses magical mushrooms as a spiritual guide. All of these elements would come off as trivial, and I doubt the screenwriter would keep all the lengthy conversations that exist throughout the novel, nor would they be able to capture the spiritual nature of the psychedelic experience.

3) Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

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Salinger’s most famous novel, Catcher in the Rye follows teen antihero Holden Caulfield. The ultimate novel to deal with complex teenager issues of identity, sexuality, and belonging. If this novel was made into a film I highly doubt that one could capture the complexity of this character without Holden coming off as a, well, whiney teenager. The good news is that Salinger was absolutely against a filmic conversion of his novel and this  is being upheld posthumously.

4) Nadja – Andre Breton

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A non-linear tale of a 10 day torrid love affair with the inexplicable Nadja. A semi-autobiographical novel, like Nightwood, the novel is written in prose form and is at times incomprehensible. The beauty of the novel is in the language, and again any “action” in the novel seems secondary to the very words which make them up. The visual imagery is arguably more beautiful than any photographic imagery a person could conjure up.

5) Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges

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This collection of highly imaginative stories are entirely dependent on the reader’s imagination to come alive. I took a class once in which we attempted to draw what we thought the Library from the Library of Babel would look like and everyone had a different interpretation  Making any of these stories into a film would be excellent creative fuel but would destroy the individual experience which makes the stories so unique.

Just For Fun: Splatter-fest

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The ridiculous, contemptible, preposterous, and just plain disgusting.

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You cringe, you laugh, you gag. These are movies so ridiculous at times you have to stop and ask whether they’re taking themselves seriously or not.

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The best, or worst, features of these films often include excess bodily fluids. The likes of spit, vomit, blood, semen and “ugh what is that!”

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And the best part of these films? Watching them with a big group of people, and drinking during the appropriate times. When are the appropriate times? Never, but thats what makes the genre so much fun.

Here are simple rules:

  1. Drink when someone dies
  2. Drink when you laugh out loud
  3. Drink when someone gets seriously maimed
  4. Drink when there’s a false lead or pseudo-scare

Adapt the game when you’re watching your favorite film or series in a marathon. Fun for the whole family!

Films for Splatter-fest, a rough list:

  • Cabin Fever
  • The Saw Franchise (the later in the series, the more ridicuouls, the better)
  • The Evil Dead (1,2,3)
  • Planet Terror
  • Re-Animator
  • Return of the Living Dead (a personal favorite)
  • Drag Me to Hell 
  • Friday the 13th (again, the later in the series the more random, I also thought the newer remake was fun)
  • Halloween (seriously, try and find Halloween 3 and not die of laughter. Hint: Nazi’s and the Stone-Henge in one glorious film??)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street (more and more ridiculous deaths as the series goes on)

I’ve omitted a lot of film titles, because personally, other than the notable omission of the Saw Franchise I don’t enjoy torture-porn style films like Hostel or The Human Centipede.

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Summer Music Time: Tune Of The Week IV

I prefer that my music touches my soul in a way that is equal parts innocence and equal parts trippy. Grimes, a Vancouver native who now resides in Montreal, fuses all of her music with touching lyrics and a catchy if not painfully simple beat accompaniment.

And while I’m not introducing Grimes, by any means, her growth has been very impressive to me. Earlier in the year she was relatively unknown, playing small Vancouver Clubs like the Electric Owl. Most recently she opened for Skrillex at the massive PNE Forum. And while I do not promote Skrillex and his absolute bastardization of music in any way, shape, or form it is nonetheless a huge step forward in her career! In under a year this change occurred. Pretty inspiring.

I chose Oblivion because it is her most popular track at the moment and seriously upbeat. If a song could be adorable this is it. It comes from her album “Visions”.

Irma Voth: How Much Do You Believe?

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Is it possible to communicate loneliness if the only person you’re sharing it with is yourself?

Irma Voth is the 6th published work by Canadian author Miriam Toews and her 5th work of fiction. The novel follows the eponymous protagonist Irma through her struggles for identity and place within a rural Mexican Mennonite community. Toews once again pays homage to her own Mennonite descent by returning to a rural small town community as she did in A Complicated Kindness.

And while both novels follow young women during a critical phase in their life, Irma Voth is not entirely routed in reality as A Complicated Kindness is. I think this rhetorical effect is done both intentionally and inadvertently.

Irma is a textbook example of an unreliable narrator. As the filmmakers come to her community to film, Irma falls into their crowd and increasingly looses her grip on reality. This is made explicit in certain parts of the novel where she describes an event and goes so far as to say “no, that didn’t actually happen”. This was a rather enchanting part of the novel, one which made you sympathize with the character who has been emotionally abused her entire life.

Her escape is what I found more unbelievable. And maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I find the amount of people who give the girls breaks once she leaves the community unrealistic. The taxi driver, the random civil protestors, the hotel keeps, the random tattoo clad man… all beyond nice to her. And the scene in the move theatre where everything comes full circle and she learns about her husband’s fate. It all just seemed a bit too coincidental and revealing. Perhaps it was meant to be a biting social commentary on the nature of her home town being a harsh environment both physically and emotionally, and the greater wild world being less frightening than she was taught her entire life, but it just came off questionable.

This being said, Toews’ quality of writing remains strong, and it was interesting to see that the novel somewhat mirrors her own experiences in the film world. Toews made her first acting debut in a Mexican independent production, Silent Light, in 2007 about a Mennonite community. The Mexican film crew in the novel and the other actors were some of the strongest characters in the novel and would be interesting to hear if they reflected her own experiences.

And while I may have revealed quite a bit about the plot there are still several mysteries which riddle the novel. A good read and unique in its subject matter.

Absentia: Between the Paranormal and the Rational

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I stumbled across this film while looking at a rather obscure compilation of best horror movies of 2011. If ever there was a sensitive horror movie made, this is it. The plot revolves around sister’s Callie and Trisha who begin to investigate the vast number of disappearances within their community centering around the tunnel which connects their home to a park on the other side. The seemingly harmless piece of urban construction holds a much more sinister history, and is even connected to the disappearance of Trisha’s Husband who vanished 7 years prior.

Each character is complex and well developed. No relationship seems forced and every aspect of the character’s interactions with one another seems genuine. Callie is a born-again Christian who still dabbles in old habits. Trisha is a pregnant widower involved in a relationship with the detective assigned to her husband’s case. David, the husband, first appears as a frightening ghost and later as an empty husk of what was once a man. Even the detective who wants to be rational, who wants to explain everything never truly seems as convinced as his straight go-to partner.

As I said, this is a rather sensitive film, more likely to make you feel empathetic than horrified. Although that is not to say there aren’t some great jump out of your seat moments, mostly including the missing husband in apparitions. If you have a fear of Silver Fish, this is the horror movie for you. If you have a fear of dark places, or even if you don’t you will after watching this film. Walk through a tunnel again and try not to feel spooked!

The greatest aspect of the film for me was not so much the open ending, the filmmaker makes it fairly obvious as to the fate of the characters, but the divide between those that believe in what is really happening in the tunnel and those who can explain every aspect with logic and rationality. A beautiful mirroring effect happens at the beginning and end of the film as the characters attempt to rationalize the irrational. What Absentia offers is a sensitive and thoughtful insight into the human psyche, into human emotion and you will truly feel for the characters in the film.