While I definitely have some snobbery when it comes to certain movie adaptations of my favorite books (I refuse to watch the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice), in general, I'm pretty accepting of movie adaptations. I understand that changes have to be made; there's simply no way to cram 300+ pages of information into a 90+ minute movie. I may not like these changes, but I'm usually OK with them as long as, fundamentally, the film is trying to capture the heart and message of the book. What I am not OK with is changing the spirit of the book.
Case in point: Stephen Daldry's adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
When I first heard about the film adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I was apprehensive. It's not a particularly plot-driven book. It's episodic in nature, and it's more about situations and emotions than events and plot, and I didn't think it would translate to film very well. But Jordan really wanted to see it, so I obliged.
I think my biggest issue with the movie is the fact that it almost completely eradicates the story of the Dresden bombing. If I remember correctly, there is exactly one reference to Germany during World War II in the film. The Dresden bombing and fallout after it is the primary focus of the grandparents' sections, which means that the film essentially cuts out two-thirds of the book. The grandmother is reduced to a non-character, and the filmmakers had to combine the grandfather's character with that of another elderly gentleman to give him a meaningful role.
I also disliked the portrayal of Oskar in the film. I adored him in the book and fondly remember him as one of the most successful and compelling child narrators in literary history. You get such a clear sense of who he is and how he operates, and his way of perceiving the world is so fully realized. That just isn't there in the movie. It's harder to tell what drives him, and his character seems almost one-dimensional. He's also more charming in the book, even if he's still very rough around the edges. In the movie, he tends to come off as just plain ornery.
The movie is also more heavy handed, whereas the book is about subtly and the significance of the little things. For instance, you sense the presence of Oskar's father everywhere in the book, but he isn't a fully realized character. The movie, by comparison, makes him much more real. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that there's no way to convey the book's nuance and subtly in film. You have to be direct, which makes the final product less elegant.
In the end, sometimes movie adaptations fail if for no other reason than the fact that film and literature are two different artistic mediums and they can't always accomplish the same things. Sometimes the written word is just more successful than film is when it comes to telling a particular story and vice versa. That said, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of the most meaningful and compelling novels I've read, a truly masterful work of art. While I'd recommend passing on the film, I think it is well worth your time to check out the book.
Have you read or seen Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? What are you thoughts on the book and/or the movie?