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Words, Movies And Out Of Africa

Illustration for article titled Words, Movies And Out Of Africa

From By the Book, the weekly Q&A series at the Times Book Review, dig this from Jodi Picoult:

What's your favorite movie based on a book?

As someone who's written a book that was badly translated to film, I am very sensitive to this topic, and always on the lookout for movies that are faithful adaptations of stories I've loved. I still don't really understand why Hollywood continues to fix things that are not broken. My gold standard for book-to-film translation is "Out of Africa." In that memoir, Isak Dinesen — whose Gothic fairy tales are lush and elaborately written — dramatically alters her style to describe her life. The more personal the story she tells, the more she strips down the language — and the barest bones are used to tell of her relationship with Denys Finch Hatton. We now know, from other memoirs and original source material, that the writer's relationship with Finch Hatton was one of the seminal moments of her life; it's almost as if her deliberate parity of description was meant to keep the private private; to suggest that ordinary words simply could not convey the depth and parameters of this relationship, thus the writer was not even going to make the attempt to do so. The filmmakers took all the ellipses in Dinesen's memoir and filled them in visually, revealing Dinesen's complex relationship with Finch Hatton through images the way she could not in prose.

Fascinating and good example of how filmmaking enhanced a story.

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