Lost In Translation

Let me get one thing straight before I start today’s rant: I don’t hate movies based on books.  I really don’t…so long as it’s a good adaptation (read: caters to my nitpicky needs for everything to be exactly the same).  But there’s something about putting a book written in first-person into film form that kind of bugs me- at least the idea of it.

I suppose this post arose from my contemplating how TOTALLY AWESOME the Hunger Games movie will be.  Then I started thinking about exactly how certain parts would pan out.  This was me: “Hmm, Katniss has a lot of inner dialogue and turmoil throughout the book.  Considering she’s working alone and the circumstances she’s in, it wouldn’t make much sense for her to be talking to herself all the time.  So how does that work out?”

If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, let me give you some context.  This is a highly political series with strong themes of rebellion and the horrors of war.  Katniss is constantly thinking about her strategies and how far she might go to survive, as well as analyzing her current situation.  This is all done quite neatly in her head, as talking to herself isn’t the best thing when there are bloodthirsty Careers after you.

So my question is: how do you make that into a movie, where you can’t just read everything the character is thinking?

The simple answer is that you can’t.  Sure you could try what Twilight did, and have voiceovers (sorry, that’s the only movie I can think of on the spot).  But that gets boring after a while, so you can’t do it all the time.  Another thing is to have her say the stuff to another character, perhaps Peeta.  But her questioning the Capitol would be seen as too rebellious, and over the years Katniss has become guarded in her words and actions, so that’s out if we’re staying true to the characters.

You can see why I’m so nervous.  If none of the things she thinks in the books are said, the film will lose a lot of its core.  What Katniss thinks and what she shows us of her world, and the revelations she gives through that, make up a huge part of the overall storyline, especially when we get into the final book.  If that’s gone, what do we have?  A girl fighting and having people close to her die with little context to put it in.

This is what can make or break a movie.  And I so want this one to be good.

This artist has some more AWESOME artwork (and not just Hunger Games...Doctor Who, anyone?) at the linked site.

I suppose that’s my point for today: you can’t make everything into a film.  Some things just won’t work.  A character’s inner dialogue is one of those things.  That’s why the book is nearly always better; we understand more in a book.  The only way I could see The Hunger Games passing this test is some kind of clear visual reference for understanding the evils of the Capitol (other than the Games themselves) and the tension felt by the people in the districts.

Understanding a character is vital.  Films just don’t do it for me for that reason.  Something gets lost in the translation*, something that allows us to see as the character is seeing.  Maybe this is why I don’t get attached as much to movies (or maybe it’s just that I don’t watch that many).  In a film, characters are so clearly other people, and their thoughts are hidden from us.

There are times when that doesn’t cut it.

Reading over this post, I think I’ve been rambling for about the past three paragraphs, so I’m just going to stop here…

Happy reading.

P.S. In a fit of teenage rebellion, my creativity has taken my money and run like Abigail in The Crucible.  Which means…I need ideas for blog posts!  Feel free to comment with any book related (or nerd/geek related) topic you want to hear my thoughts on.  My creativity did leave me with a few things, but I have a sneaking suspicion they’re all the old, boring topics no one wants to hear about.

*See what I did there?

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4 thoughts on “Lost In Translation

  1. I hope for the best Hunger Games film adaptation, but given what Hollywood’s done with most of the popular YA book adaptations, it’ll be a miracle. (The Harry Potter movies are, for the most part, exceptions.) Great post.

    • Despite my fears, I do actually think it will be good, judging by what I’m seeing of the process. Suzanne Collins appears to be deeply involved, which is always a good sign, and all the reports from cast and crew seem to contain good signs. Still, we won’t know until we see it! I’m glad you liked the post.

  2. I am sad to say that Hollywood has ruined both the Vampire Diaries AND The Secret Circle. I was totally lost the entire time! 😦 I just finished the most amazing book, Dash and Lily’s Book Of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the same authors that wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. It was a a bit short, but humor makes up for it. Overall a really good read, sorry if I’m creating more stress for you, but it’s a great read! 🙂

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