25 March 2009

the movie

This weekend I took part in a ritual sure to have been celebrated by people, mostly teenage girls, all across the continent, perhaps even the globe.

I watched Twilight, the movie.

I loved the books, as you can see here. But I was entirely ambiguous about the movie. It was disappointing in many ways, even giving moviemakers leeway with regards to the process of turning books into movies. Like I said on my FB page, at the risk of angering some pretty fanatic Twi-hards (the name for Twilight fans... although I really doubt that any of them would visit this blog...) Edward, who is a "tortured soul" kind of character in the book, looks constipated for most of the movie. The actor finally gets it right by the last scene. Jasper, not a main character but one of the more intriguing ones, looks the same way. I wonder how they could keep up the look that long while shooting such a lengthy movie. The only character I really thought was a perfect fit or who got the role right was the actor who played Bella's father, Charlie.

Another criticism I have of the movie is that it wasn't believable. I don't remember much from the acting course I took many years ago in college, but one thing that really sticks out is my professor stressing that what is going on onstage must be believable. It doesn't matter if it's written in the stage notes, if it's not done in a real way, the audience won't believe it and it will be forced and staged (kind of a paradox, really, that a play shouldn't be staged and it can't be forced even though you have to follow the stage directions).

I didn't really understand this until I was doing a dialogue with classmate and we had our coaching session. We were doing the scene from The Diary of Anne Frank where Peter and Anne have a conversation about movies and movie stars and Peter (finally) kisses Anne. My prof told me, Anne, that even though the stage directions said, Peter kisses Anne, Anne, in the scene, really works to get him to kiss her. If she didn't, and Peter kissed her anyways according to stage directions, it would seem false and fake. The kiss had to be believable. It had to come from somewhere, for some reason. Peter has to want to kiss her and the audience has to see that to believe the kiss is real.

I unconsciously apply that lesson to movies, even though it has more to do with the theatre. Most movies are not really lacking in the believable factor. But I found that Twilight was, especially when Bella and Edward are declaring their feelings for each other. Having read the book I knew that it had it to happen, but in the book you know all the feelings, thoughts and events that precede that scene. You know where they are coming from. In the movie, Edward has done little to cause Bella to fall in love with him and so their relationship feels forced.

But perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Movies based on books are rarely as good as the books are, with changes and shortcuts and different character interpretations. Imagination has no limits, which is what you use when you read; movies have to be within a certain time frame, they have a thrill factor and not be to complicated, etc. I do tend to give moviemakers a little leeway taking all that into consideration. But I guess I am a bit of a purist and tend to be critical when too big of changes are made or major things are left out(like the dragon scene in the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and when the actors chosen do not fit into my reading of the character. A few of the book characters who really come to life (for me) in the movie version were Winona Ryder who plays Jo in Little Women, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, most of the actors in the Harry Potter series and, in part, the newest version of Pride and Prejudice.

There is a risk involved watching a movie based on a much-loved book. You are asking the director and the actors to form the feel of the book and its characters for you. You risk altering the world and characters your imagination has formed, based on the author's words. Sometimes that first impression doesn't come back and your view is tainted by a bad movie interpretation. I have had that happen and it is sad in a way. The author is the first one who came up with and created this world and those characters in the first place. Anything else besides his or her written words and your imagination is really just getting it secondhand.

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