Cinema Literary

By Jill Smith © 2005

Many people believe literary works don’t necessarily shine on the cinema screen. It’s worth considering this: good stories abound with strong characters that the reader or viewer identifies with, keeping us hooked and making the experience memorable. Recently, I was delighted to enjoy The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a 2003 movie. Apart from the amazing computer-generated graphics that bring to life such surreal situations as the immense Nautilus cruising the Venice canals and gently bumping aside gondolas in its wake, it’s the combinations of fascinating characters borrow from legend that capture the imagination and have the viewer spellbound.

After seeing the movie I did some research as to where this remarkable tale originated. The heroes comprising the ‘League’ are brought together by ‘M’, whom we later discover to be their nemesis, the famous villain Moriarty from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series, originally published in 1879. The group is brought  together  to fight the ‘Fantom’, an entity creating havoc worldwide by using advanced weapons to generate suspicion of power-play among world powers.

The League comprises characters from classic literary tales: Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), the swashbuckling larger-than-life greatest big game hunter of South Africa, originally from H Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1856). Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), the Captain of the submarine Nautilus from Jules Vern’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869), Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), originally Mina Murray from Bram Stokers’ Dracula (1897). Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), an adapted character from H G Wells ‘The Invisible Man’ (1897), who steals the invisibility formula from the original character Hawley Griffin, Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), adapted from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (1890), who with his immortality and charm is the group’s potential  undoing. Tom Sawyer (Shane West) is now a US Special Agent, an adult version of the main  youth character in Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ (1876), Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Jason Fleming), from Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ (1886). The computer graphics of his transformation from man to man-beast is awesome.

The piecing together of the story is exquisite. We follow the characters of these literary treasures as together they battle a dark enemy. The pace ebbs and flows throughout their journey, the action peaking at three different battle scenes, that are brilliantly cut from one shot to the other intensify the climax.

Don’t be put off if you’re not a sci-fi fan: this I a fast paced, exciting, action adventure, an escape into a world of endless possibilities.


by Jill Smith © April/May 2002

I’ve found this is a simple and effective way to keep the brain ticking over with ideas.

I was delighted to meet Nick Earls at Somerset Literary Festival where I bought a copy of his book ’48 Shades of Brown’ which has been adapted into a stage play by Philip dean. I bought Philip’s book also with the aim of comparing the two takes on the same story. Questions arose immediately, Nicks book is 29 pages long and the play is 85 with a further 25 pages of Teachers notes at the back. The teachers notes are about the actors who portray the characters in the play.

The first chapter in Nick’s book is 31 pages of description and conversation. Nick had signed my book, ‘Jill, 48 Shades of Brown,  the wordy version’, and he was right. The book is brilliantly simple and well written. The first chapter we discover Dan is a year 12 student and 16 years of age. His parents have moved to Geneva for twelve months and he has opted to complete his final year of Secondary School living at his Aunts home. The complications come quickly, his Aunt Jacq is 23 and nothing like his very neat orderly do everything mother. Jacq is at University and is part of an all girl rock band. Her housemate Naomi is 18, attractive and has creaky bed sex with her boyfriend in the room next door to Dans. He is awkward, embarrassed and ill prepared for sharing his life in this unconventional house. He can’t even cook! We learn most of this in the journey from the airport to Jacq’s house, in the first chapter. Then Dan goes to school and is plagued by his best friend who is an internet porno junkine,  and an annoying slobbering mutt named ‘Boner’ who visits their yard. Dan stumbles from one painfully emabarrasing moment to the next. It is quite a piece of work.

So how does Philip Dean compress the story into a totally visual, less wordy volume that actors have actually for the past several years performed? The answer is the first chapter is cover in eight pages. The differences between the novel and the play are very distinct yet the feel of the book is totally conveyed. The first two paragraphs describe the scene and backdrop. The car ride home and conversation are reduced to a half page at the airport, then strait into the house scene where Dan meets Naomi. All the awkwardness is conveyed and the basic conversations related highlighting Dan’s concerns about fitting in.

I will continue to make comparisons, draw from life, keep jotting down notes and suggest you do the same. Who knows, your next idea may be the next world wide best seller.

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