question of the day: What makes a good book-to-film adaptation?

Inspired by The Hunger Games, Tasha Robinson and Scott Tobias at the A.V. Club have a conversation about what makes a good book-to-film adaptation. A few highlights, first from Robinson:

[I]f book-to-film adaptations can fail by being too faithful or by being not faithful enough, what’s left? And is it fair for people who have read the book to complain about it not giving them something new, when it’s still serving a purpose by accurately bringing the story to people who haven’t read the book? Is it possible to please or even serve both audiences? What makes a good book adaptation, anyway?


What I want is not faithfulness, but an active engagement with the material, which doesn’t have to preclude faithfulness. The question filmmakers should ask is not, “How can I bring this story to the screen without losing anything?,” but “What in this book do I want to emphasize?” If you’re reading a book, I think it’s natural to home in on themes, characters, and scenes that are most meaningful to you…. [A] good adaptation has to make choices about what’s truly important. And it also has to exist independently from the novel: Films content with merely illustrating books are more concerned with problem-solving and translation than artistic expression.

There’s much more, and it’s well worth a read.

But what are your thoughts? What makes a good book-to-film adaptation? Do the rules vary depending on the book, or are there some hard-and-fast basics that anyone hoping to successfully translate a book to film should follow?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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