Friday, June 16, 2006

Suspense-thriller books don't make great films

There's been quite a lot of debate so far whether a good book makes a good film. I havn't been exactly a participant in this debate, but surely have harbored certain views on this topic. And most of them have been formed with the release of the recent blockbuster 'The Da Vinci Code'.

I believe the debate is not a platonic discussion. There can be certain books which have fuelled the imagination of millions and have tremendous fodder for visual appeal. For example, a movie in the Harry Potter series holds extravagant visual imagery and cinematic content that can take the book ahead in our imagination. Hogwarts, wizardry, dragons, Quidditch, Voldemort...there is immense scope for interpretation on part of the director in the way he portrays the characters, sets, make-up of the film. It is only when the director's interpretation and our own tread on similar grounds, that we identify with the film and begin to like it.

Surely, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings went through this process of identifying with the imagery the books once created in our minds. The books formed movies which were magnum opei and the rest is history.

Thrillers or suspense potboilers in books for films, aren't exactly what you expect to be curious about. Since the plot and the mystery has already been revealed in the book, there is hardly anything to sustain viewer interest, unless of course if the script-writer adds his own spice to the film.

The Da Vinci Code, to me, unfortunately suffers from the same anomaly. Let's leave aside the fact that director Ron Howard is a scholarly director - not the first person who comes to mind, when you want to produce a suspense thriller.

It is the mere fact, that the film offers very minimal visual curiosity, grandiosity and unpredictability to sustain audience interest. Unless you haven't read the book, the film definitely is a drab show. You know the conclusion, the villian, the sequence of events, the answers to all the codes ...the suspense has already been revealed to you long back alongwith its manifestation in steps of several clues! What could you possibly like this movie for? Tom Hanks' dry performance? Or Audrey Totou's francoise English accent? Not Ian Mccallen's pretentious role of course!

When films were made on HP, LOTR, Chronicles of Narnia, there was an awe and curiousity attached to the different fantasy world created by their authors. Fantasy sells quick when it is converted into celluloid, since the fantasy has been converted into a format which till then never orchestrated itself in front of your eyes.

Under such circumstances, the Da Vinci Code lacks any curious imagery that we would have formed. It grandiose for some portions if you've not seen The Louvre ever, but that's about it.

It is difficult to fathom what would have happened to the film had there not been any controversy surrounding it, internationally. Thanks to all the furore, it is rightly been termed 'The Critic Proof Film' of all times!