Confessions of a Recovering Book-to-Film Adaptation Snob

Carolina Ciucci


Carolina Ciucci is a teacher, writer and reviewer based in the south of Argentina. She hoards books like they’re going out of style. In case of emergency, you can summon her by talking about Ireland, fictional witches, and the Brontë family. Twitter: @carolinabeci

I have a confession to make: I’m a book-to-film snob. I insist on reading the book before I even consider watching the movie, and more often than not I decide that the movie won’t do it justice anyway, so why bother? Even when I do watch the film, I’m typically that annoying person making snarky comments under her breath until everyone in the theatre wants to feed me the damn book and choke me.

I have enjoyed some book adaptations: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Game of Thrones, The Princess Diaries. This is usually because I watch the film version before I read the story. But, say, Harry Potter? I could never bring myself to even watch the movies, let’s not get into actually enjoying them. What if the ~vibe is off? What if Emma Watson’s not-remotely-bushy hair is too distracting to enjoy Hermione? Good lord, I hear S.P.E.W. is not even a storyline in the movies. Imagine!

The distrust only got worse when I caved and watched a Wuthering Heights adaptation. Beyond the fact that I found it hard to buy that Ralph Fiennes would be considered “as dark almost as if it came from the devil” (not to mention that I always thought Heathcliff was either Romani or black Irish, given the numerous “gipsy” references throughout the book), I actually, literally face-palmed when I realized that Catherine Linton was played by the same actress who played Catherine Hareton. And let’s be real, it’s pretty clear that makeup team didn’t put all that much effort into making her look younger, or Heathcliff older. I felt betrayed, you guys. WH has been my very favorite book for eleven years, and this felt like watching a middle school play adaptation of it. I turned off the TV and vowed to never, ever watch another WH adaptation again.

So far, I’m sticking.

I know, rationally, it’s not reasonable to expect the film to be exactly like the book. Time constraints, production values and so on, there are plenty of reasons why a movie can’t – and maybe shouldn’t– be a carbon copy of the source material. But all that rationality goes down in flames the second someone says, ‘hey, have you watched [insert title here]?’ Suddenly, I become this whiny whiner who whines and clutches her book (err, pearls), all the while making a sign to ward off evil. Or inaccurate novel adaptations. Whatever works.

But fear not, filmmakers! I fully intend to change my wrongful ways, and there’s already a plan involved: it involves wine (liquid courage, y’all) and the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Even if all the positive reviewers are partaking in a massive conspiracy to fool me into thinking that the movie is good, I figure that Gregory Peck can make up for all manner of adaptation sins. Who knows? Maybe next time, I’ll even watch Harry Potter.

Giving another adaptation the chance to mess up Wuthering Heights for me, though? Yeah, let’s not go to Crazy Town.