Audio Interview: Devin Brown Discusses What Makes a Good Adaptation

Dr. Devin Brown (C.S. Lewis scholar) was recently interviewed by Katherine Britton at It’s a really interesting interview. He talks a lot about what makes a good adaptation, and what he thinks are the most important themes of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. You can listen to it here (6 minutes), or read’s transcript. Here are some highlights:

“Lewis’s stories are the kind of stories that they’re re-reading again and again and again. They’re the kind of stories that work on all different kinds of levels, with both small children and scholars.”

On the first two Narnia films: “I don’t think you can make a movie just anything you want from a book. Don’t get me wrong, not any change is acceptable. But at the end of the day, I ask myself is the film saying what the book is saying or have they changed it? In both those cases, they have.”

“[Lewis] also really awakens in us the longing for another world. In a way the world of Harry Potter is really our world. But there’s another world that we were made for that our world is somewhat like and is reminding us.”

Thanks to ‘220chrisTian.’

17 Responses

  1. glumPuddle says:

    I really like his adaptation philosophy. "At the end of the day, is the film saying the same thing as the book?" That's the most important thing. The first two films were saying pretty much the same thing…just not nearly as powerfully.

    With VDT…I'm worried that they are not saying the same thing as the book. It doesn't seem like it's about honor, nobility, or longing for one's true home. It seems like it's a survival story.

  2. Awel Prince says:

    Hmm, that's verygood and very insightful! 😀 I have to agree withhim! 🙂 Not everything in a book works for movie… but then you can't do 'EVERYTHING' different either, such as Suspian 😛 mostly 'in the spirit of the book' is what is important.

    Pepper Darcy borrowing Awel's Computer =D

  3. glumPuddle says:

    Suspian was very damaging to one of the most important themes of the book (and one of the most personal themes to Lewis): The myth becoming fact. They never established Caspian's awe of meeting Queen Susan the Gentle from the ancient past. Caspian's first reaction to meeting her should have been awe. Instead it was "wow, she's kind of hot."

  4. Rilianluvr4evr says:

    thts the best way i've ever heard the susan/caspian thing put

  5. Charles says:

    I think the biggest misstep was casting Caspian to old. Though I have nothing against Ben Barnes. Really its not a bad movie in and of itself, its just really different from the book.

    If redemption in played out in VOTDT and the longing for ones true country I will be happy. The film looks amazing so far I have high hopes. Apted is a great character director so I think it should work.

  6. Not Of This World says:

    Good point!

  7. Pepper Darcy says:

    i hope you realize I was talking about the Suspian thing in a bad light. I can't stand it 😛 I realize I wasn't very clear, but I hope you realize I do *NOT* support the Susan/Caspian thing. (there are general groans and scowls whenever that scene comes up at our house)

    But like you said, that would have been awesome if Caspian had held her with awe and not what happened 😛

  8. wolfloversk says:

    Actually I don't think they had much of a choice in the matter when it came to Caspian's age, the book said he was about the same age as Peter, and Ben and Will are pretty close in age. Really all five of them were younger in the book, but three years passes in between making the movies, when only one year passed in the book. They did their best, that's the mostg they can do. I have to admit to that one of the things about BBC PC that bugged me was that Caspian looked a lot younger than Peter.

  9. wolfloversk says:

    I like his idea that in order to be a faithful adaption, the movie has to have the same theme as the book

  10. NarniaNerd says:

    Yes, I agree. The whole thing that Michael Apted said about there not being a "real" reason for the journey. Yikes.

    The main thing that bugged me about PC was how they made Peter such a jerk. It's so sad. And Susan was a little, um…un-gentle.

  11. NarniaNerd says:

    OH YES!!! It was so annoying how Caspian was like, "I thought you'd be older…you're not exactly what I was expecting." 'SCUSE ME?!?!?! Would you say that to King Arthur if he came back to life as a fifteen-year-old?

    But Peter's comeback was funny. "Well, if you like, we can come back in a few years."

  12. wolfloversk says:

    Actually I didn't really like Peter's line there, but again that goes back to the whole jerky-Peter thing.

  13. NarniaNerd says:

    I don't think it was a jerky thing to say. Maybe the way he said it was kind of rude.

  14. narnian resident says:

    now this is what i've been waiting for. a strong, personal, professional description of good adaptation and wonderful discussion about the changes in the movie and the important themes of the story. wonderfully done, Mr. Brown!
    i would LOVE to go to a college that had a class about C.S. Lewis! maybe i should look into Ausbury College….

  15. glumPuddle says:

    Right. A good adaptation says essentially the same thing, but it in a different way. Because not everything that works well in a book will work well in a film.

    When adapting a book for film, the filmmakers look at the book and say "Okay, that worked great in the book. But what is the most effective way to tell this story visually?”

    Or, to put the question another way "How can we take what works so well in the book and make it work just as well in a film?" Sometimes, that means making changes.

    I thought PC did a decent job of telling the story in a more cinematic way without totally losing the essence. I emphasize “totally,” because some of it was lost. Suspian, for example, was very damaging to the heart of the story.

    With VDT…I really feel like they are totally missing the point of the book. I hope the trailers have been misleading.

  16. elanor says:

    Maybe we should see the movie first and then decide. (However, you could be right, anyway.)

    Well…when I first saw the trailers and spoilers for PC, I felt like it was not in the spirit of the book. But after I saw the movie, (while there are still a lot of elements in PC that I have major problems with) I did feel like it was in the spirit of the book.

    I'm still hoping for the Voyage to be the right one! So far…it seems like they've done a lot of things right…but we'll just have to wait and see the whole picture.

  17. elanor says:

    Hmmm…I agree with you when you said, "a good adaptation says essentially the same thing, but in a different way."

    But…don't you think a huge part of that IS what happens in the story? The events? There are a lot of movies and books that are essentially "saying" the same thing,(i.e. have the same message) but sometimes, the events in the stories are totally different. For example, if the Lord of the Rings is about doing what is right even in the face of fear (obviously that's not the only theme of LOTR, but for the example) you could also have a movie about World War II, with a family hiding Jews in the face of imprisonment. Those stories are saying essentially the same thing, but the actual movies are totally different. So…don't the events in the story mostly make up what a story IS? Not just what it is saying?
    Don't know if that made sense. Just something I wasn't thinking. 🙂