I have mentioned in my Wuthering Heights post that it is not good to rely on the film or TV version of a book. I stand by this. Reading the book is essential. Films and TV just don’t have the time or the scope to convey everything that a book can. I’m sure you already know this as you’ve chosen English, but it’s surprising how many students will try to dodge the reading. During group work on Lolita I was amazed to find that I’d missed a whole scene in the book, as had four others in my group. Whilst one student talked very excitedly about the significance of the scene the rest of us looked at each other, puzzled. The question was then asked, “Where in the book is that?” The student looked sheepish, “I’ve not read the book, I watched the film” (Groan!). But if you avoid this potential shame, watching a film or TV version can be helpful and beneficial when thinking through themes and issues raised by a literary text. Thus, I’ve compiled a list (of some) that might help if you find yourself with a couple of hours to spare.
Lolita – No film could possibly do this book justice. There is just too much going on in it to portray on screen. If you’re going to watch any I’d recommend the 1997 version with Jeremy Irons: this one at least shows Humbert as something incredibly creepy – which he is (Humbert not Jeremy). Stanley Kubrick’s film from 1962, was strangely light hearted. Like all Kubrick’s films (in my opinion), it’s nothing like the book. You can find Lolita (1997) on YouTube.
‘V’ by Tony Harrison – You can watch Harrison read his poem on YouTube and it really does help. It’s quite a long poem and listening to it means that you take it in differently. Be sure to have your poem to hand so you can make notes. It’s good to hear the poem in Harrison’s accent as it adds to the mood.
Wuthering Heights – There are so many versions of this, both film and TV, and most are wishy-washy at best (I’ve seen a few). Like Lolita, it is impossible to portray all of the complicated characters and plots on film. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, so my advice (again!) is to read the book. I’m still slightly unnerved by the Tom Hardy version. His bedraggled costume make him look like a mixture between Dick Turpin and the headless horseman.
The Plays: Abigail’s Party and Endgame – Always worth watching a version of any play, you pick up so much more than from just reading the lines on the page (I know you’ll already know this). I found Endgame impossible to read, thankfully this is only a very short part of your academic life! The humour aspect of Abigail’s Party can be lost if you don’t watch it, or at least a clip of it, to feel the pace of the play. Versions are available on YouTube and BobNational (Just log in with your uni details).
Literature in Context:
A Taste of Honey – A kitchen sink drama set in the 1950s which focuses on social issues, short and easy to read.
The Golden Compass – The film version of Northern Lights with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. I love both the book and film. The film is quite well done and interprets the book relatively well, although naturally it doesn’t beat the book. Just let your imagination run wild – the book is so different from anything else on the course: it’s a magical breath of fresh air from another world.
Great Expectations – An old version (1946) of the film really helps to demonstrate how films can be different from the books, not only is Pip about 30 years too old, but Joe comes across like he’s had a lobotomy. This is quite an interesting look at how your perspective of a story can be skewed by someone else’s interpretation. There’s also some dodgy hat-wearing going on this film! If you want to watch a decent interpretation I’d recommend the BBC 2011 version with Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham.
Hopefully this will be of some use to you. You will receive lots of links via BlackBoard for other useful things like documentaries etc. Take advantage of any spare time you have to look at them: they’re no substitute for books (did I mention that?) but they can be incredibly helpful.
Lynne & T.E.A.