With the rapid development of technology and the continual dominance of streaming services it sometimes feels like an obvious place to start making films is to remake popular books. In fact, for some, having their book picked up by a film studio is something of a dream come true. On top of this increase in technology, the sheer number of streaming services now available, each looking for new content to make their name mean that often low-hanging fruit is best to get your name out there. Streaming services are more affordable than cable providers and offer a greater range of on demand viewing than cable ever really did. It would be ignorant to say that the world of literature is a dying one, but the industry is a changing one and one can’t help but wonder if everyone should be changing with it; begging the question, should all pieces of classic fiction be remade into films or television?


This is a question that most authors we would consider as having written a piece of classic literature would not have to ask themselves. The only thing that could be remotely similar is having it performed in the theatre as a play which wasn’t a likely scenario; constantly transforming pieces of literature into plays would’ve undermined the work of prominent playwrights and opposed the nature of most novels. However, I believe that the remake of classic pieces could have positive affects on class. For a long time, most who could afford to have their works majorly distributed were upper class people; and for a long time having read these select works and more importantly having understood them was a sign of an academic class of people – usually also upper class. The adaptations of these works could serve as a way of breaking down these preconceived class divides, allowing people who are less able to receive a ‘good’ education to acess these various stories and plots in a format that still allows for analysis and some critical thinking. The greater distribution of these theories and tales to a larger audience and perhaps allow for a great breadth of analysis and criticism on popular pieces.

However, in order for this to work the remakes would have to be much more accurate than they currently are. In order for people to accurately critic the material and ideas set forward by the author the adaptation would have to remain strictly loyal to the plot, which runs the risk of dry and uninteresting scenes that do not match the current expectations of cinema and the viewer. Take for example the novel ‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville. It is a pretty well-known novel and I think most people could tell you the basic parameters of the story. Some might even be able to begin to explain the certain metaphors and motifs within the novel. For years it has been revered as a classic work of literature, but I will be the first to say that it would not make a very interesting film. Certainly, there are aspects of it that might be entertaining but it is a decently sized novel and much of it is contemplation through thought instead of dialogue or action. It seems to me near impossible to capture each feature and nuance of the novel on screen.

But let’s look at some examples of literature that has already been adapted for screen. In 2004 Troy directed by Wolfgang Peterson was released. It attempts to retell the story of the Trojan War only it doesn’t do it very well. Homer is a name that has penetrated the world for thousands of years, but the works of the ancients will never be told accurately on screen, in fact they can hardly be read without vigilant studying. The entire works of ancient and oral poetry doesn’t translate on screen because of how much lore exists behind it. For thousands of years different writers and poets have been adding to the stories to a point where to know some of it is to only know the tip of the iceberg. Thereby ruling out nearly the entirety of ancient writing and poetry. But let’s look at a more recent example. The novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a novel that I would consider to be hard to adapt into a film accurately, despite it being an example of a novel that has been adapted. This Kafkaesque style of writing often doesn’t work scene by scene like a film does. Even in films that have a scarcity of scenes they rely to a certain extent on being able to cut from place to place in order to put a story together. The fluidity on the novel creates a framework for the very chaos of the story. Without the literary structure the value of the novel is diminished.


Instead of adaptations, I believe that books should simply become more accessible. This has partly been helped by the introduction of the Kindle and various other e-readers. But there is more to it, books are still very expensive and often people find classical literature difficult to get into as being unable to understand the language used can often be off-putting. On top of this some people find reading difficult and not very entertaining and would therefore much rather watch a version of the novel even if it was condensed. But at the end of the day, relying on adaptations works to an extent by introducing the viewer to the basic plot of the novel while being no substitute for the real thing.