Are there books that are inspired by films?

Adaptation of literature for film and TV : When bestsellers hit the quota

When the Frankfurt Book Fair starts on Wednesday, it's not just about the pleasure of reading; it's also about how letters become visual pleasure. The fair has been awarding a prize for the best international literary film since 2004. This year it is even expanding the program and will present the “Frankfurter Messe Film Awards” for the first time on Thursday, which will now be presented in three categories. “We are currently experiencing a renaissance in literary adaptations - literary material is the source of inspiration for films and series. And not least because of the streaming services, they are experiencing a tremendous boom, ”says Juergen Boos, Director of the Book Fair.

Besides the Berlinale, the fair, especially Thursday, is an important meeting point for rights officers from publishers, literary agents and film producers. This is about mutual exchange, but also about trading in licenses. As a rule, the book licensing business is carried out by both sides. Publishers and literary agents offer film productions interesting novels for filming. The film productions also comb through the publishing programs themselves. They like to rely on what has already proven itself on the market, such as regional crime novels for television, report publishers - or what is particularly in focus at the moment. "But there is no real formula," says Ufa fiction producer Benjamin Benedict.

Whether Bernhard Schlink's “Der Vorleser”, Stieg Larsson's “Verblendung”, but also the series “Game of Thrones” - many literary films are based on bestsellers. There is a simple reason for this: the production companies can be sure that the material has already inspired many people and that they will be accordingly curious to see how the book will look on the screen. This reduces the risk of a flop. And for those viewers who have not yet read the novel, there is now the chance to have a say in the matter and thus possibly save themselves reading a 1000-page tome. Around 7.5 million viewers saw the two-part ARD film adaptation of Uwe Tellkamp's “The Tower” in October 2012, ten times more than the book sales at the time. Sometimes literary adaptations even help books to become world famous. The film adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella “Death in Venice” and Mario Puzo's novel “The Godfather” are now at least as legendary as their literary originals.

Film good, book better

Much more often, however, it is said: the film was good, but the book was better. Often not only the audience is disappointed, the authors themselves are sometimes anything but enthusiastic. Lothar-Günther Buchheim distanced himself from the film adaptation of “Das Boot”, Michael Ende was furious about the adaptation of his “Neverending Story”, Stephen King also struggles to this day with Stanley Kubrick's “The Shining”. Most of the time, they are bothered by the fact that the film is not based enough on the work.

In the beginning, Eugen Ruge was not looking for a film adaptation either, because he believed that “In times of waning light”, his novel, which won the German Book Prize, “in its complexity, with its interior views, its language” could not be filmed.

For Ruge it is a mistake to believe that a book can be translated 1: 1. A good book does not necessarily develop from the plot, but from the language and the images that emerge from it - it is “about intellectual enjoyment, HOW something is said, how something is described: a sunset, an umbrella, a figure ". Such descriptions cannot simply be replaced by showing them; instead, a good film adaptation works “through a deep understanding that mobilizes one's own experiences and feelings”.

Writer and screenwriter André Georgi sees it similarly, who has already rewritten stories by Siegfried Lenz and Ferdinand von Schirach so that they are suitable for television. A good film adaptation captures "the spirit" of the book - and has the courage to leave gaps. While literature can wander off from time to time, following several storylines and a large number of people, when it comes to a film, there is usually no avoiding to limit oneself to individual storylines for reasons of time. As a result, one has to think carefully about who is driving the narrative. In general, moving images should be more pointed, more pointed than in a novel.

You have to be able to experience emotions

However, that doesn't mean that the dramatic has to be portrayed as explicitly as possible. Emotions and inner monologues are particularly difficult to portray; it is best to be able to read the emotions in the actor's expression and actions. You have to be able to experience it to a certain extent.

How much the writers participate in a script varies. John Irving wrote the script himself for his novel "The Cider House Rules" and won an Oscar for it; other authors act in an advisory capacity, and still others hold back completely from the script.

In principle, film adaptations of literature are an expensive undertaking because in addition to the script, the license also has to be financed. What the authors earn from it varies and is the result of individual negotiations. The fact that authors categorically reject a film adaptation is an exception, says Benedict. “It is important to have a good dialogue with the authors. It also has a lot to do with trust, to put your own book in someone else's hands. ”In the best case scenario, book sales will be boosted again by the film adaptation.

Eugen Ruge has also gained new readers through the film, but he still considers his book unfilmed. Ultimately, scriptwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase and director Matti Geschonneck would have used the novel to write out their own farewell to the GDR. "There was no film adaptation, but a film."

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