Right now, out on general cinema release this week, is the new film adaptation of SUSAN HILL’S THE WOMAN IN BLACK, starring DANIEL RADCLIFFE in his first lead role since leaving the HARRY POTTER franchise. It is also the lates new movie from the returning HAMMER HORROR film studio, and they seem to have a huge amount riding on its success.
What is now interesting, is that I have learned that apparently the script has changed really quite considerably from the book. This does often happen to various degrees when well known novels are taken to the big screen, but this seems to have many narratively significant possibly even controvertial changes.
The screenplay has been written by JANE GOLDMAN, a very talented screenwriter responsible for great recent adaptations including KICK ASS, X-MEN:FIRST CLASS and STARDUST. I do really admire her writing, and skill in taking these various sources successfully to screen from books and comic book origins. Here though with THE WOMAN IN BLACK, it comes from a very well respected and highly acclaimed novel and then stage play also. It is a tale with a large collected audience, well established over decades who most likely are very fond of the text and power of it. It has been a brave and playful choice of HAMMER and GOLDMAN to make these numerous changes to the story which apparently are in some ways alter the tale greatly.
From THE GODFATHER to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, DRACULA to DUNE, just how much should a story change from novel to film? A book is one distinct art form, film another very seperate kind. Each can do and achieve very different results and responsed and should be read and viewed in their own ways. Does that mean that a film adaptation should actually be distorted and rearranged very radically in order for it to reach the big screen?
When a successful novel-or unsuccessful even-is adapted to screen, it has a loyal audience of readers who can very likely be upset or angered with a bad film or accepting and surprised at a good one. Should the existing fans of the book or original sounce simply be forgotten or ignored in the process, treating it as a brand new project, a new interpretation?
That is how I see that they have viewed this adaptation of THE WOMAN IN BLACK, as seperate to the book and the play. It is simply a new interpretation, a different view and vision of the original concept, and that is fine.
Then, interestingly, there will be folk who enjoy the film and later read or come across the book or play and find that strange or even wrong to their view of the story.
Film adaptation will possibly never be perfect, but they will always be something new and different alongside the original book.