When I was in college I took a film and lit class where we read books and then watched the movie version. We were admonished to never compare the two. One should never say, "The movie was better than the book," or, "The book was better than the movie," because film and literature are two different art forms, doing different things in very different ways.
And so in class when we watched "I Never Sang for My Father" and "A Long Day's Journey into Night," and "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," and then read the books the movies sprang from, we were not allowed to say we preferred one over the other.
We were encouraged to approach each one on its own terms and analyze each version separately.
But having just finished watching the movie version of "Feast of Love," I'm going to tell you straight out: The book version is a whole lot better than the movie version--a whole lot better--and if that means that I retroactively have to fail that film and lit class, so be it.
The book was terrific. The movie was terrible. How many ways can I say this?
I can't analyze the movie on its own merits, because it didn't have any. It took the lustiness of the book and made it porn; it took the wisdom of the book and made it trite; it took the meaning of the book and made it hackneyed.
And then, just for fun, I guess, the filmmakers made a bunch of arbitrary and inexplicable changes that seemed to serve no purpose other than to irritate those who knew the book: They moved the setting from Ann Arbor to Portland; they changed the lead character's name from Charles to Harry; they changed the tragedy of the absent son from mental illness to heroin overdose; they changed the ethnicity of the doctor, and they completely excised the very powerful and hair-raising attempted rape and substituted a truly ridiculous scene where Morgan Freeman, aged, what, 79? punches the evil guy in the nose and saves the day.
The book is rich and funny and very sexy. (The New York Times called it "juicy.") (The New York Times also suggested that the movie be renamed "Feast of Breasts.")
I am not one who resents it when my favorite books are turned into movies. "Pride and Prejudice" alone should tell you that. Some movies follow the book closely, some rewrite and condense for purposes of cinematic storytelling, some transcend the book. But this one, oh my.
What about you? What movies have you seen that completely wrecked the book? What books have you read that made much, much better movies than they did literature? Dare we compare?