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
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
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
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
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
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.