Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
With the recent success of the movie adaptation of Room by Emma Donoghue, we got to thinking about what other great Canadian books made good movies. Whereas with Room, Emma Donoghue wrote the screenplay as well as the book, this is not always the case. Authors have varying contributions to the final outcome of the film. How difficult it must be for a writer to part with artistic direction on their creation to allow someone else to create a new piece of art.
Today on Library Moments Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each talk about a popular Canadian book turned movie.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: What I remember most about watching the amazing movie Life of Pi is my husband paying attention throughout the whole film! Often I will find him asleep part way through a movie but this one definitely kept him alert. Yann Martel’s imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading and viewing experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The intelligent son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting “religions the way a dog attracts fleas.” Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a traumatic shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat’s sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: He says “It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I’ve made none the champion.’
Life of Pi was the winner of 4 Academy awards in 2013, including Best Director.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: When you hear the words “If you build it, he will come” you probably think of Field of Dreams, the film starring Kevin Costner which played in theatres from April 1989 until December of that same year. What many people may not have realized at the time – and even now – was that Field of Dreams was based on the novel Shoeless Joe by Canadian author W.P. Kinsella. A lover of the book, writer-director Phil Alden Robinson wrote the screenplay despite studios saying that the story did not have enough commercial appeal. Eventually, the screenplay was sold to Universal, but Robinson was forced to change the name. Robinson had written the screenplay under the original title of Shoeless Joe, and was upset about the decision, dreading the call to Kinsella to tell him about the change in title to Field of Dreams. He needn’t have worried, however, as one of Kinsella’s own title ideas for the novel had been Dreamfield, only to have the title Shoeless Joe foisted on him by his publisher. Another departure from book-to-film is the name of reclusive writer Terrance Mann. In the book, the writer was the real-life J.D. Salinger – the point being that Salinger meets one his own characters, Ray Kinsella. However, the litigious Salinger was not happy about being portrayed in the book and having already threatened to sue Kinsella extended that threat via a grumbling letter to Universal.
Authors take various levels of ownership when their work is adapted to screen. Kinsella’s stance at the time was that so long as he got paid for his work, what Robinson did with his script was up to him. However Field of Dreams became an exception to that detachment after Kinsella read the screenplay. In an 2014 article for ESPN Kinsella wrote: “I wept when I read the finished screenplay. “This is my own work doing this to me,” I said. “How can this happen?” […] I loved the movie. Novels and movies are entirely different art forms. I don’t see how Phil Robinson could have done a better job of successfully transferring one to the other.”
Haliburton County Public Library has both the novel Shoeless Joe, and the movie Field of Dreams – if you place a hold on them, they will come to a branch near you.
Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje was made into a movie that opened in theatres in 1996.
The sweeping expanse of the Sahara is the setting for a passionate love affair. A badly burned man, Laszlo de Almasy, is tended to by a nurse, Hana, in an Italian monastery near the end of World War II. His past is revealed through flashbacks involving a married Englishwoman and his work mapping the African landscape. Hana learns to heal her own scars as she helps the dying man. There are two other characters living in the monastery that also get some airtime, all adding intrigue to the story of four very different lives.
This movie had twelve Oscar nominations and ended up winning nine. Although Ondaatje didn’t write the screenplay he did work closely with the film’s editor Walter Murch as much of the story is told in flashbacks which necessitated some tricky editing. The movie generated much critical acclaim and film critic Leonard Maltin called it a “mesmerizing adaptation.”
The movie industry isn’t necessarily concerned about whether or not the original book’s author approves of the film that results from their book. But, in terms of the art of both producing a novel and producing a film it is better for everyone if the author likes the effort.
All the books and films discussed today can be borrowed from the Haliburton County Public Library. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments, thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM March 20th to March 26th, 2016.