If you’re a fan of literary adaptations then no doubt you’ll currently have your head stuck in a copy of Joyce Maynard’s emotional coming-of-age novel Labor Day, Nick Hornby’s heart-warming suicide drama A Long Way Down, or maybe even Veronica Roth’s debut dystopian Divergent. What we’re looking forward to most, however, is Richard Ayoade’s upcoming adaptation of Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s dark comedy novella, The Double. With an adapted screenplay written by Ayoade himself alongside fellow scribe Avi Korine, this is his first film since the hugely successful Submarine.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska as the two leads, the story follows a man driven insane after finding out his life and identity is being assumed by a doppelgänger. The original novella was released in 1846, subtitled “A Petersburg Poem” it showed the surreal and grotesque influences of fellow Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol, Ayoade’s adaptation is sure to get some big, albeit uncomfortable, laughs.
In anticipation for the release of The Double on 4th April here in the UK, let’s have a look at six of the greatest literary adaptations, from a classic romance to a modern story of mental illness.
1. The Classic: To Kill A Mockingbird
It’s a worrying fact that film adaptations don’t always get it right, but it’s promising to think that many of the novels we loved reading have been adapted into films that are as classic as the novels themselves. Some of the more iconic of these include Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, George Orwell’s 1984, and Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. Our pick from the classics, though, is Harper Lee’s one and only novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.
Published in 1960, the novel follows a lawyer in the Depression-era South, who defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice. The novel itself was immediately successful and won the Pulitzer Prize, with the film adaptation being released only two years later in 1962, directed by Robert Mulligan and starring Gregory Peck as protagonist Atticus Finch.
Whilst, as previously commented, both film and novel are considered classics on their own, of course the adaptation has its flaws. Whilst the only real plot difference is that some of the subplots involving the children were removed to concentrate on the trial, a main criticism is that a lot of the novel’s emotional impact is lost, as you don’t connect to the characters in the film as well as you do with the ones in the novel. But that’s a common criticism for literary adaptations, and one that you would seldom see a film vs. book comparison without.