The latest– and umpteenth– remake of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (with accolades for Mia Wasikowska as the title character) is a might-as-well moment to think about some other films based on classic novels that go ‘round in the cinematic carousel of the mind. A brief few:
Barry Lyndon: Took a very long time for the consensus to catch up with what was always the case: Stanley Kubrick knew exactly what he was doing with William Thackeray’s novel (though the 1975 film was parodied at the time as “Borey Lyndon”). Every nuance reflects the masterful director’s touch (and as usual, his choice of music was uncanny).
The Age of Innocence: Martin Scorsese’s 1993 interpretation of the Edith Wharton tome set in 1870s New York City was beautifully brought to life by his attention to period detail, as well as the simmering earnestness of Daniel Day Lewis’ performance as the tormented suitor obsessed with the unconventional Countess Olenska, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. (Which reminds me, what happened to her?)
Death in Venice: Hopefully, this will remain the last (and only) film rendition of the Thomas Mann novella, as it’s impossible to replicate the perfection of Dirk Bogarde as the tragic von Aschenbach (or the inspired use of the “Adagietto” from Mahler’s 5th Symphony as the musical backdrop for this melancholy masterpiece, directed by Luchino Visconti).
The Great Gatsby: Feel strangely contrarian to the general opinion of the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Especially thanks to my bow-down admiration of the Fitzgerald novel. But always liked it! Even Farrow! The movie had a not-big-name director (Jack Clayton, though the script was written by Francis Ford Coppola) and forever widely panned, but still get pulled in whenever I run across it. Maybe I’ll be able to replace this guilty Gatsby pleasure when the latest adaptation, directed by Baz Luhrman, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy, eventually reaches the big screen. (It begins production this August.)
And lastly, Wuthering Heights, William Wyler’s 1939 Hollywood recreation of the Emily Bronte Gothic weepie, with the eternally lovely Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff. Merle Oberon was kind of pretty as well.