Austen fans spoilt for choice

Jane Austen has experienced great popularity in recent years. Since the 1990s there have been numerous takes on favourites such as Emma, Sense & Sensibility and of course Pride and Prejudice. But perhaps we should dub 2007 (the 190th anniversary of her death) the Year of Jane Austen’s Triumph:

The TV series Lost in Austen (2008) deftly captures the fascination the modern world has with Austen’s work; our genteel and romantic sensibilities are alive and well!

And what better way to spend an evening than in the delightfully diverting company of Austen’s heroines? We can cringe appreciatively when Lizzie encounters Mr Collins, tut over Catherine’s wild fancies at Northanger Abbey, and feel suitably embarrassed as Emma’s matchmaking goes awry!

As to version, there’s plenty of choice. Emma can be blond or dark-haired, if we watch the 1995 or 1996 versions respectively. And if we really want to, we can watch Jane & Lizzy in black and white (wearing large hoop skirts) in the 1940s classic. Enter Laurence Olivier as Darcy (woah!).

But there is soon to be a new twist coming to the screen. 

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What could be better than reading a classic? …

Cover… Watching the film!

As part of my classics education growing up, I read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. It was an interesting enough story, but very old-fashioned and very French. That is to say, it was long, complicated and had an entirely unsatisfactory ending. Not my favourite story.

But then, I discovered the 2002 movie  (directed by Kevin Reynolds). Suddenly it wasn’t boring anymore. The movie is gripping and has a good plot without being confusing. Loose ends that used to bother me are tied together nicely to form a ‘proper’ ending.

Don’t get me wrong, the start of the book holds great promise. The hero, Edmond Dantes, is a personable but naively loyal young man, who is preyed upon by evil people and ends up imprisoned unjustly. Many years later, he escapes from prison with only one thought – revenge. Then begins an elaborate cat-and-mouse game of wills as Dantes works his way into the powerful circles of his enemies under the elusive title of the Count of Monte Cristo.

I don’t wish to downplay the art that went into writing it, but there are several points on which, in my opinion, it falls flat. One is the sheer number of sub-plots. I know who Edmond is, but who was the guy, who told the story about a band of ruffians, who abducted the sweetheart of a young man, who did something we can’t remember because it wasn’t actually part of the main plot in the first place?

However, it is the disappointing ending that is most unforgiveable. After exacting suitable revenge, the protagonist ends up being an older guy married to a beautiful young princess, whom he prefers to the ‘true love’ of his youth. He never quite recovers from the wrongs done to him, and finally just runs away from it all. His once true love is left widowed and miserable during the final scenes, which leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth.

Conversely, the movie – of course employing some artistic licence – takes all the grand schemes and themes of the book and cleverly ties them together. It also includes a well deserved happy ending. Jim Caviezel plays an excellent naive-then-vengeful Dantes, who in the end lets go of his bitterness, is redeemed and reunited with his true love. The baddies are varied and convincing, with Guy Pearce as the charismatic but treacherous Fernand Mondego. There is a good amount of action, epic themes, tasteful humour and a touch of romance. What more could one want in a film?

Willing to give Monte Cristo a chance? Find a copy of the book or movie in our library catalogue.

Seen a movie that knocks the socks off the book? Tell us about your favourite book-to-movie adaptations! Need inspiration? Check out the library’s page on Books into film & television. More film stuff on our Film webpage and Read the Book — then see the film.

Books in to movies – I say yes, you say …?

Christchurch City Library catalogue link to Sherlock Holmes
His last bow; and the case-book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This in response to Zac’s blog post Should books really be made into movies. I know I could have commented in the comments but the more I thought about it, the more I had to say so bear with me. Now Lisa has swung into the debate with her blog Shutter Island : Good; Leo : Not so Good, now here is my two cents or is the going rate 10 cents? 

I too saw some movies over summer including Sherlock Holmes and The Lovely Bones – yes, both books. One of the things I noticed was that over half of the movies that were being advertised were based on books.

A lot of people are of the school that movies based on books aren’t as good as the real thing. In many cases this is true but look what it does to the reserve lists at the library. Because of the movie Sherlock Holmes, my husband and I have discovered the joys of Sherlock Holmes – the novels. Holmes was as Guy Ritchie portrayed him – a brilliantly analytical, drug-taking, street fighter who was more than likely manic depressive. Who would have thought! They’re a really good read.

And then there is the True Blood series. I couldn’t get Prime when it first came out so I tried the books to see if they were worth giving a go. Sadly they were – great pulp reading. I say sadly because now my reading is centring around Sookie Stackhouse, closely chased by Sherlock Holmes with the odd novel thrown in to break it up a little. So are any movies that inspired you to read? Or any movies that are better than the book?