Books on Film: Cloud Atlas, Les Miserables, The Hobbit

Scriptwriting professor John Glavin told the Washington Post recently that turning a book into a film works best when the writer is willing to reinvent the book to suit the film medium, rather than attempt to be too faithful to the original.

‘That’s why there are very few great movies made from great books, but any number of great movies made from deeply forgettable books,’ he said. ‘We can’t forget Vertigo, and we can’t recall D’Entre Les Morts, the book it adapted.’

James Stewart and Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock's *vertigo*.

James Stewart and Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock's vertigo.

Similarly, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is a film classic, while the pulp fiction original by Mario Puzo is largely forgotten.

But of course, great books are usually more attractive to filmmakers than mediocre ones, despite the challenge of doing justice to the books - and the risk of alienating or angering fans. When it works, the payoff is well worth it.

Here are just a few great books making the transition to a cinema screen near you in the coming months.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas Extended Trailer #1 (2012) - Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Wachowski Movie HD

The trailer for Cloud Atlas

The Wachowski siblings, the creators of the Matrix trilogy, are about to release their version of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, one of those books that’s often labeled notoriously unfilmable. We’re about to see if the Wachowskis can turn the label around.

‘In all honesty, I’m amazed that of all my books, this is the one that filmmakers of that calibre and reputation would want to make,’ David Mitchell himself has said.

‘We actually weren’t sure it could be done,’ said Andy Wachowski. ‘We were skeptical going into the writing process. That was a sort of exploration, just to see if it was even possible.’

Cloud Atlas will hit Australian cinemas in early 2013.

Les Miserables

Les Miserables - Official Trailer (HD)

The trailer for Les Miserables

An all-star version of the hit musical Les Miserables (itself based on Victor Hugo’s novel) will open on Boxing Day in Australia, with local stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman alongside Ann Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and others. Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) will direct. All the actors were apparently required to sing their parts live

The Hobbit

The Hobbit Full Length Trailer # 2 HD

The trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson’s first film of The Hobbit is about to be released. And New Zealand, where it was filmed, has banked on it delivering another tourism boost. The national tourism slogan ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ has become ‘100% Middle-earth’, reports the Guardian, while in the days leading up to the premiere, Wellington will be ‘renamed’, ‘Middle of Middle-earth’.

The film will be released in Australia on Boxing Day. It is the first film in a projected trilogy.

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