|Uncas from Last of the Mohicans,|
|a movie that is thankfully|
|completely unlike its book.|
Most movies based on stories utilize the make-a-place-for-myself-or-something-else approach simply because most texts don't translate into sell-able scripts. In this approach, movie-makers do not merely change viewpoint or add in extra scenes or zero in on a particular theme. Movie-makers use the motifs, characters, and plot points of the original to mold a new story. This "playing with creation" has its downsides, which I will address in the next post. It also has its upsides.
Last of the Mohicans (1992), for example, bears a strong resemblance to the text by James Fenimore Cooper: It . . . takes place in the same time period as the novel! Okay, that's not fair but really, don't read the book expecting the romance of the movie--or for that matter, the streamlined plot and non-clunky dialog. (My review of the streamlined, non-clunky, and beautiful 1992 movie can be found here.)
|A scene not located in the original NIMH book: Justin v. Jenner.|
|Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka|
In general, the movie-makers of these movies appear to have purchased the material more than the storyline (although Ordinary People is quite faithful in other regards). However, there are instances where the book's material is faithfully reproduced while utterly transformed.
Howl's Moving Castle, the film, retains the plot of the book for the first 1/2. The second 1/2 takes on a different rhythm and purpose. For one, Miyazaki removes the Wales scenes; in Diana Wynne Jones' delightful shaggy dog story, the scenes are not out-of-place. In Miyazaki's interpretation, they would have added a jarring Monty-Pythonesque tone. Miyazaki also enhances the war references of the book, making that conflict a driving force in the film.
The most important change is Miyazaki's development of Sophie's bespelling. In the book and in the movie, Sophie is turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. In the book and in the movie, it is implied that Sophia has clung to the spell for self-protection. In the movie only, Miyazaki uses Sophie's age--from old woman to young to old and back again--as a counterpoint to Howl's more self-destructive self-protection.
Sophia becomes young and beautiful when she forgets herself, when she fights for Howl, when she stops caring about the world's opinion of youth and beauty. She retreats into salty, good-humored old age when she needs to hide. The heartbreaking lovingness of Miyazaki's vision is something any woman, young or old, comprehends instantly. It has nothing to do with outward judgment. It has everything to do with state of mind. Only the Sophie who accepts herself, indifferent to others' opinions, can help Howl accept his heart.
Diana Wynne Jones' book is a good read. And the power of her story and ideas is preserved in Miyazaki's art.
Miyazaki's film is a singular classic, utterly unique to its author.