The Vintner’s Luck

A fellow author has just posted a thread on our publisher’s googlegroup concerning the mess that one film director has made of bringing a particular book to the screen. This made me investigate further, not having read anything by that particular author before. I have just read an except on Amazon and I know I want to read this beautifully written and eloquent book as soon as I can. Elizabeth Knox writes marvelously. I find it a shame that the essence of a book is knocked out by a movie maker. However, I haven’t yet seen the movie either so I might reserve judgement on that one. Besides, I would say that was what Ridley Scott did with the narrative behind Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the basis of the film Blade Runner. One of the book’s main messages is nowhere in the film although the film is, in my opinion, one of the best sci-fi’s of all time and I have yet to see the final director’s cut of it. I aim to read the Vintner’s Luck as soon as possible and if I want to, others will.

I say it’s a good thing she expressed her dissatisfaction publicly, though. It makes me feel that writers do not have enough say sometimes in the translation of their books onto film. It’s as if the story has nothing to do with the writer once the book is written. The fact that a book comes from its writer’s imagination seems to be an unnecessary bind for some movie makers. Actually, the writer gives the director the material for their art and I the best directors respect this. More often than not, a director is an interpreter, a translator, someone who takes the original tale and brings it to life in a new form for a wider audience. While I can appreciate that a director wishes to put their creative spark and imaginative mark upon their own creation, it surely should be done in consultation with its creator, otherwise you cannot lay claim to having brought the book to life in the first place. You might as well start from scratch with your own story.

At this point I hesitate to suggest that a movie is the thing that brings a story to life. A movie merely gives a book another dimension, visual rather than imaginative. A book brings a story to life in its own way and if anything a movie makes us lazy in our own interpretation. Audiences need to remember that books live on their own, they don’t need movies to do it for them. I feel that directors are credited with ‘bringing a story to life’ when in truth the author brings the story to life, sharing it from their own imaginations, bringing it to the world in the first place. Books are in danger of being demoted in this digital age, unless we educate people on their value as documents and works of artistic expression every bit as valid as a Picasso or a Rembrandt.

So far as I know this is one of the reasons why Ann McCaffrey has resisted having her Dragons of Pern stories filmed. She wanted a level of realism and honesty that has not been possible before now and she wanted to keep a level of control over her work that maybe she has not been offered in the past. Yet still she seems reluctant. At least J K Rowling was in a position to make certain demands with the Harry Potter franchise and she seems to write in such a way that encompasses modern movie making.

The disturbing thing to me is the excising of the gay relationship within Vintner’s Luck. Apparently it doesn’t appear in the movie beyond a hesitant and very brief allusion. It automatically makes me wonder why, despite there being a potentially artistic explanation for this. The immediate knee-jerk reaction when this happens is to blame homophobia and assume it was removed because the director felt it would in some way detract from the story but that may not necessarily be the case. Take the decision Russel T Davies made to kill off the much-loved character of Ianto Jones in his last Torchwood effort, many people made the assumption that this was deliberately done to kill off a gay relationship.  I never thought I would be saying what I am about to say as I am not a fan of Davies (even though I have always liked his work), I don’t get on well with either the plot holes that seem to Swiss-cheese the man’s work or his inability to bring a drama to a satisfying conclusion. However, in his defense, the decision seems to have been a character-driven one, albeit, in my humble opinion, one which was both unnecessary and over-the-top. So far as I can see it had little to do with axing the male/male relationship being portrayed openly on screen.  Davies is himself gay and his work contains a heavy leaning towards the ordinariness and acceptability of such relationships in mainstream drama. It makes no sense that he would make such a move himself. But I digress slightly.

Don’t get me wrong. Directors are amazing people for their ambition and visionary creativity, but the author of the original work is every bit as important. Most directors respect the author as the visionary behind the original, but there are some who still do not seem to. As an author I can appreciate Elizabeth Knox’s feelings about this but I also have a query as to why she left the director to get on with it? She implies that she did not keep any creative reins on the project, she wanted to leave the director to get on with her job and she says she placed her trust in that director to produce a creditable film. The result, to go by the critics, was less than desirable. I’m definitely not saying Knox deserved it, but maybe she ought to have had less trust in the director in the first place. Bottom line, the director is making a movie of her work, and people viewing the movie will associate it with her. What goes out there for public consumption has a direct effect on public opinion. If that was me, I would have demanded to have more input, would have wanted to oversee what was being done with my work, to make sure I was happy to be associated with the final product. As the originator of the piece, what is wrong with wanting that, after all?

What this has done is make me determined to read the book and I am sure I cannot be the only one, so it can’t all be bad. The writing is elegant and the descriptions evocative, the atmosphere amazing. I look forward to it, although I fear she will have been thoroughly put off having any of her other books made into films, which would be a shame. This does not make me want to watch the movie though. So maybe the director didn’t do herself any favors if the movie diverts so far from the original story.  In fairness, I will watch the movie, after I have read the book.

Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s