5 of the best book-to-screen adaptations

August 3rd, 2009 by Emily

It's a truth universally acknowledged that most teenagers prefer watching TV to reading books - so perhaps adapting English GSCE and A-level set texts for the screen is the best way to get our tutees hooked on the classics. Here are five of the best book-to-screen adaptations:

1) Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare c. 1595 / Baz Luhrmann 1996 (Film)

Baz Luhrmann made Shakespeare accessible to a whole new generation - without dumbing down. The film's frenetic direction captures the speed and impulsiveness of the young lovers' relationship, making their sudden demise all the more brutal.

2) Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen 1813 / BBC 1995 (TV series)

This seminal costume drama is as much-loved today as when Colin Firth first strode out of that lake. Eye candy aside, this adaptation works because it perfectly captures the style and intention of Austen's writing, drawing out the satirical elements of her work without resorting to caricature.

3) Bleak House - Charles Dickens 1852-1853 / BBC 2005 (TV series)

This English A-level perennial is a dense read with its myriad of characters, plots and sub-plots. This classy adaptation (again by the BBC) manages to streamline the story, without losing any of its essence.

4) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey 1962 / Milos Forman 1975 (Film)

Sticking closely to the original narrative, director Milos Forman shies away from the temptation to soften some of the book's harder edges. The result is a film which packs an undeniably powerful punch, with one of the most memorable anti-heroes in modern literature brilliantly realised by Jack Nicholson.

5) The Color Purple - Alice Walker 1982 / Stephen Spielberg 1985 (Film)

First time readers often struggle with the regional dialect Walker employs in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel. This film adaptation is a strong introduction to the book, aiding understanding of Walker's language and thematic intentions, without overpowering its source.

Categories: English