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Novels on the Big Screen

Novels on the Big Screen

There’s a long-held and widespread feeling that a movie adaptation of a novel is never as good as the source. It’s easy to see how this became received wisdom, given the sheer difficulty of translating a plot that unfolds over hundreds of pages to a feature-length film’s running time, the immensity of the passions and mysteries that a novel can hold. The challenge for the film version is to function as its own work of art while at the same time reflecting a previously established perspective. But there have been many films that brilliantly interpret the literary universes they take on. In the movies below, the words of Charles Dickens, E. M. Forster, Patricia Highsmith, Victor Hugo, Flannery O’Connor, and Erich Maria Remarque, among many other authors, are transmuted into compelling and expressive visual experiences. Whether faithful adaptations (Rosemary’s Baby, Howards End, The Ice Storm) or daring reimaginings (The Idiot, Naked Lunch, The Thin Red Line), these are films that deserve to be appreciated alongside their printed progenitors.