Cinema · Jane Austen · Uncategorized

“The Book Was (not) Better”

When is the last time you said that? This is a rare occurrence in movies, and I find myself casting about for titles, but I promised to deliver, and deliver I shall. My criteria here is simple: I had to like the movie more than the book. Granted, if I thought the book was awful, I probably didn’t watch the movie, so the fact that it’s on the list means that I already liked the book enough to see the movie that went with it.

Once again, all opinions are entirely my own–I do not mean to offend, insult, affront, or upset anyone. If I didn’t include your favorite movie, I either haven’t watched it (in which case, please make suggestions below) or thought the book was better.

  1. Pride and Prejudice ’95. Of course this is going to be up here. I include P&P ’95 not because I necessarily found it better than the book, but because it was after watching it that the story really came into focus for me. Would you believe that I wasn’t very fond of Jane Austen before watching this? It may have something to do with the fact that I read Pride and Prejudice when I was eleven, and as such, did not fully appreciate its nuances. Seeing people speak the words, act out the story, made it that much easier to understand. It was probably at this point–age thirteen, getting a homeschooler’s version of a “sick day” (chicken pox, I think)–that I fell in love with Jane Austen. This is also what prompted me to buy every single BBC/Jane Austen the local Video Adventure had when it closed down…

I’ve always loved costumes, so any BBC adaptation of Jane Austen is a visual feast for me. This version remains true to the story, and was basically a movie adaptation of what my imagination came up with when I read the book. So, bravo BBC!

2. A Room With a View. I realize that opinions here range far and wide, but my mother and I agree that this is better than the book. My mother was actually lucky enough to watch it on the big screen when it first came out in 1985. That was…goodness! Thirty two years ago! She went because it was set partly in Italy, and good Italian that she is, wanted to make sure they’d done a good job.

They did, and she decided to read the book, thinking that it would be even better than the movie. This is where opinions separate: my mother hates it, my English teacher loves it, and I remain somewhere in the middle. I believe that some scenes have merit, and that others are far too descriptive, but perfectly suited to the big screen.

As to my personal opinion, this movie is a fabulous adaptation of a book (it won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), and one of the only ones where the movie is truly better than the book, because of the book (thank you, E.M. Forster, for your hugely descriptive panoramas). I personally could do without the fight in the square, and would love a slightly more modest pond scene–but the movie wouldn’t be the same without them.

This movie also instilled in me a love for the aria “O mio babino caro“, and on the rare occasions that we visit Florence, I go to the bridge, piazza, and Santa Croce–sans Baedeker.


3. Enchanted April. Another movie taking place partly in  Tuscan Italy. I do believe I spy a pattern here. Once again, I felt that watching the movie helped the story come into focus for me. My mother, displaying a pattern, went and saw this one before she read the book–for the same reason she went to see A Room With a View. I don’t know what I love about this movie: the wisteria, the walking stick, the exploding boiler…probably all three.

I remember reading the book and not being all too impressed. It was a while ago, so I should probably revisit it, but I wasn’t all that excited when my mother brought the movie home. After all, if the book hadn’t been great, why should the movie be any good? Oh, ye of little faith…

Conclusion: I may have to broaden my definition of  the book being worse than the movie. In many of the above cases, the movie was chosen not because it was necessarily better than the book, but because it enhanced it. In most cases, the movies have been watched so many times that if one of us says “Come and have a bathe,” the conversation (or “conversazione”) will probably conclude with “Freddy, you are in no position to argue!”

Have you seen one of these movies?

If so, did you like it?

Have you seen a movie you thought was better than the book it was based on?

Yours, etc.

Miss Elizabeth





2 thoughts on ““The Book Was (not) Better”

  1. Of these, I’ve only seen P&P ’95…but PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 1995!!!!!!!
    It’s the best movie EVER (in my ever-so-humble opinion). And yes, it is SUCH a good adaptation of the book. It does a perfect job, again in my ever-so-humble opinion, interpreting Jane Austen’s work to film. I LOVE THAT MOVIE.


    1. Oh, you simply must see A Room With a View. It’s fabulous! (Or else I wouldn’t have posted about it ;))
      And yes, of course P&P 95′ reigns supreme. Do you know, I just saw a boxed set of the tapes at the thrift store…whatever prompted that poor, depraved soul to get rid of theirs?


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