A Clockwork Orange

Anonymous's picture

As a teenager I saw Kubrick’s "A Clockwork Orange" probably five times before I read the book. I loved the movie but the book blew me away, and still does.

I think one function that movie versions of good books can have is to turn the viewer into a reader of the original source material, the book.

On the other hand, one of the smartest professors I have ever had (that’s you, Prof. D), who also genuinely loves books (you’d think that would be true of all English professors but, sadly, it is not) refuses to watch any literary adaptations because they interfere with his reading of the books by, of necessity, providing him with images of the characters and situations that he doesn’t want.

He doesn’t want pictorial-media generated images to displace, or even compete with, the images generated by his own imagination when he reads.

I salute his Gandhi-like dedication to the page, but I admit that I watch adaptations all the time.

Gregory Knapp
Forums Editor

Zibbie's picture

I, too, loved the book A

I, too, loved the book A Clockwork Orange and have read and re-read it over the years. In fact, it was probably one of the things that first sparked my interest in linguistics when I became fascinated by the created vocabulary used by Burgess in bringing his characters to life.

But, perhaps because I had a such a visceral reaction to the book, this is probably the only book whose film adaptation I have avoided seeing. I honestly don't think I could watch what I was able to read. With the page, I think I feel a greater distance from the events that are described. Watching them play out before me would be an entirely different experience.

WmAnthony's picture

Generally the watching of

Generally the watching of adaptations do interfer with the reading of the original, but there are exceptions.
Beloved by Toni Morrison is a favorite of mine and when I taught American Literature I included it as one of the required texts. However, knowing the book the way I do and understanding the abilities of my students, I choose to show the film adaptation of the novel first to orientate the reader, which I think helped in the long run to assist some students through portions of the more unconventional sections/chapters of Morrison's incredible novel for which little to no imaginary images would suffice or if conjured would only lead to confusion.
For example, we spoke about objective correlatism in the book, and i would freeze-frame on projection a scene that would illustrate the principle. How do you show a house being spiteful?
To my mind, it worked well. But as a general rule, read the book, maybe see the film later.

NessaH's picture

I think A Clockwork Orange

I think A Clockwork Orange is a great screen adaptation of a novel. As is The Quiet American (with Michael Redgrave) by Graham Greene, and Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith.

But ask Bernard Malamud, or Philip Roth about adaptations of their novels and they'll roll their eyes and speak in tongues. I know. I worked with Malamud when I adapted The Assistant.

My general rule, though, like Greg's professor D, is: Loved the book? Avoid the movie. (Sophie's Choice, for instance. I did not want Kevin Kline to ruin my image of Nathan.)

And if you REALLY loved the book, don't make a movie out of it.


Kevin Longrie's picture

I think avoiding movies

I think avoiding movies adapted from books might cut you off from 70 percent of movies.

NessaH's picture

I think you might have

I think you might have misunderstood me. I meant if you LOVE a book, avoid the movie. I didn't say that I avoid every movie based on a book.

They've just made a film based on Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. This is the sort of thing I'm talking about. I loved this book. Loved it. I strongly doubt they will do a good job adapting it. Great cast, good enough director. The film might be successful. But it won't be the book I love. The words, the images, the structure. The adventure of discovering the choices the writer makes. The inner voice.

I defy anyone to adapt Stoner, by John Williams.

Go ahead. Prove me wrong.

RodneyWelch's picture

I've become thoroughly

I've become thoroughly indifferent to adaptations, or shall I say, to adaptations of novels I love or admire. If anything, the idea of sitting through one just bores me.

I'm a fan of Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake" and Somerset Maugham's "The Painted Veil," and I've passed up every chance to see either. I'm sure they are as good and intelligent and well-done as people say. My thinking, though, comes down to a matter of choice: with all the untold stories I've yet to see on film, why sit through a story I already know?

I know the immediate answers to this, of course: the casting might be interesting, the writer or director might have opened up the story in some fresh (or perfectly wretched) way, and there's the payoff (more or less) of knowing how it's all going to turn out. I used to think that way, and if sufficiently prodded, I still can. But if I have my druthers, I always prefer seeing something that's unexpected and hopefully original.

NessaH's picture

I think I have just proven

I think I have just proven myself wrong. I watched an adaptation of Vita-Sackville West's "All Passion Spent," for Masterpiece Theater. It was so superb I have ordered the novel.