People often ask me whether I'm afraid the film version of my books won't be "faithful," or won't adequately live up to the book itself. Usually, I say I-don't-care-just-get-me-to-the-red-carpet-and-buy-me-a-pretty-dress, but I thought I'd take a moment to give a slightly more thoughtful response.
I recently read the first draft of the excellent Delirium script. (Did you know that Delirium was on its way to the big screen? Oh, yeah, baby.) I felt the script was remarkably faithful to the book, which is fascinating, because it managed to condense 400-ish pages into a slender, moving, and breakneck-paced script of about, I don't know, 120 pages (and much of that was margin space!).
It got me thinking. So...did I use too many words as I was writing it? Would it have been possible for me to lop the book in thirds? Or is the script too condensed, too crystallized--is it missing key elements?
The answer to both questions is, I think, no. Film is a visual medium. That means its tools, is language, is totally different from the tools I employ as a novel writer. And maybe that's why I've never really "feared" that something would get lost in translation. I mean, yes, bad movie adaptations happen, but I think that in order for books to become good movies, they must transform. Being faithful to the book must mean that you are willing, onscreen, to depart from what was on the page. Just like any other translation, sometimes in order to preserve the spirit, you must alter things structurally, grammatically. And film has a far different grammar than fiction.
When I re-read the Delirium script, I realized that certain things had really changed. I hadn't noticed these alterations on first read because the script felt like a faithful interpretation to me. The spirit was there, and that's what's important to preserve.
As the French like to say...plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose...[The more things change, the more they are the same.]
So...bring on the pretty dresses and the red carpet! I'm super excited about seeing Delirium and am already brainstorming cast ideas. Any suggestions for Alex? ;)