Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tolkien, Peter Jackson, and Me

My husband and I were talking recently about how, of all the movies based on great books that we'd seen, it was hardest to evaluate The Lord of the Rings films separately from the book on which they are based. Much as I love the films, it's very difficult for me to understand how the films stand on their own or, more specifically, to imagine how those who have never read the book might respond to the movies. Hard as I try to view them on their own terms, I inevitably think of the three great films as, in some way, supplemental to the book.

Here are my questions. Am I right about this? If so, does that mean the movies are diminished as works of art in their own right? Or is there something about the world that Tolkien created that makes it especially hard for an adaptation to stand on its own, aesthetically speaking? I suppose it's natural for me to want to attribute this feeling to the greatness of Tolkien's sub-creation. Of all the books I've ever read, I probably lived more completely in Tolkien's world than in any other book I can remember. Maybe that's a function of the age at which I first read Tolkien. Maybe not. In any event, why can I accept William Wyler's The Heiress, for instance, completely on its own terms, as disctinct from Henry James's Washington Square? Henry James is at least as hard to adapt as Tolkien, and cinematic adaptations of James's work have not, on the whole, fared well. My gut feeling, though, -- for which I have no proof --, is that Peter Jackson created as great a movie as could be created from Tolkien's works, but that there will always be a part of the movies which, as tributes to their source material, remain inextricably linked to the original text.

The great number of people who saw and loved the movies without having read the book would seem to provide a simple refutation of my theory. I cling to it nonetheless. I suppose that means that, according to my theory, those who love the films without knowing the book can't possibly experience the movie as fully as those who do know the book. Any ideas out there?


Post a Comment

<< Home