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Lost in the Translation: Film Adaptations of the Book "Cloud Atlas"

Updated on October 23, 2012
The film cost $100 million
The film cost $100 million

How many times have you read a book or novel and loved it, then, when the book is turned into a movie, the opposite happens? Sometimes the book to film adaptation works, sometimes, not.

One new film, Cloud Atlas, star studded and based on a book, may or may not succeed. The problem from adapting a book to a movie is one of cost- each page of a 90-120 page movie script is one minute of film on the screen and costs $100,000 or more. Few movies go beyond 120 minutes because of this and those that go to 180 minutes stretch the limits of moviegoer endurance in many ways. A longer movie does not mean better. There are many gravestones of movie titles to prove that. The hardest thing is to decide what to include from a meandering, detailed novel full of details. That is why the reader of Harry Potter books are often unhappy with the film, so much had to be ignored because the film is concise-the important and high points. Details in books are words, on the screen, they are there or not. Many books have too many characters for a movie to follow and this will lose the audience, and if you lose them, your film will fail.

The author of Cloud Atlas calls the movie of his book on the outer limits of book to film adaptations. It has eight characters for the audience to follow, there is a series of six different time-eras depicted from 1850 to 1930 and others and each time narrative is interrupted by another time and story that try to connect to one another until the movie makes full circle (timewise) ending back in 1850. There are six worlds and the film darts around among them with frequency. Some viewers will get lost and leave unhappy, others, will leave trying to figure out what the hell it was all about. The author, David Mitchell, is only half sold on the adaptation, in fact, he was shocked when he was contacted about turning the book into a film. He thought it would be impossible-almost.

Well, at least he was paid well for the rights.


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    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 5 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      I'm looking forward to seeing this film and how well the adaptation comes across. For script writers this issue must be a perenial nightmare as with most loved stories there will be armies of fans just waiting to see how there beloved characters and story lines will play out on the big screen. Everybody sees a character in a book slightly differently and it is almost impossible to please everyone!

      I wrote a hub on this very problem, would love to know what you think?