Wednesday 3 November 2010

TV Adaptations

One of the books that I have always enjoyed is The Little House by Philippa Gregory, written before she went off on her historical bent. It's a psychological drama about a new mum and the relationship she has with her mother-in-law. Some of the scenes have stayed with me - hauntingly so - even though I haven't read it for a few years.

So, it was with some reservation that I discovered that ITV were dramatising it, and I have just watched the first part.

I have mixed views on adaptations. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is wonderful, mostly because they took the trouble to create it over five hours and the casting director did the most amazing job on each and every character. The Keira Knightly version is rubbish, misses out half the story and has appalling casting (including Keira Knightly as Lizzie - what were they thinking, apart from she'll sell??)

Mostly, I think there's a reason why a story is told in novel form - the author has chosen it as the best way to deliver their story, otherwise it would have been a screenplay, or stage play, from the start - each of these formats is a wildly different device. Adapting a book for TV or film means removing from the original idea. Although, I do admit that it means many people will become aware of a story they might otherwise never known about; not everyone enjoys reading.

Back to The Little House: it was not as bad as I imagined, although because it was written for ITV with advert breaks, there was an obvious need to have a mini cliff-hanger every 15 minutes or so; and it was difficult to get into the head of the main character Ruth, the poor new mum. Her husband was just as wimpy as in the book, however, so that was perfect. And Francesca Annis was very subtle and menacing as the mother-in-law. The book, as it has more time to tell the story, is much slower and has more layers; the build up is much more tense because of that.

I am looking forward to the second part, simply because I know how it ends, and I am curious to see if they will keep to the book or go off on some bizarre tangent the way some adaptations have done in the past.

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