Written by Misc

New Versions of Classics

Why do we keep getting new versions of TV and film classics adaptations? Every Jane Austen novel has now been adapted on countless occasions and you just know that there’ll be more.
Even “definitive” versions of the classics don’t stop someone else making the same story again a few years later. So we had a film version of Pride and Prejudice after the exceptionally popular Colin Firth TV adaptation.
There’s a film version of Brideshead Revisited coming soon which seems pointless considering the incredible Granada TV adaptation of the eighties simply couldn’t be surpassed. Andrew Davies wrote the first draft of this but is reported now not to be still attached – although I too think it’s bizarre that they’re filming in Castle Howard again.
And now we read that there’s a new version of A Room With A View starring Timothy Spall coming, even though the Merchant/Ivory film version practically defined a genre. And the same, very busy Andrew Davies is adapting it and he said at Hay this week that it is a tough task because there was such a good film, but his version will have an “edge” to it.
You could argue that there’s always room for another Hamlet, but stage plays are ethereal and there’s always a new audience who’s yet to experience the play. But films and TV series live on, with DVDs and satellite channel repeats.
New directors always feel that they can bring new visions and ideas to a project and attack the story in a different way, but I always feel that it’s a little like deciding that you’re going to remake a classic film. When was the last time that worked? Psycho? The Ladykillers? The Texas Chainsaw Massachre?
It’s just a pity that we can’t either adapt some less popular works in an author’s cannon – ideally ones that have never been filmed before. Or perhaps – shock horror – actually commission new stories. I’m sure that someone must have written one, but I struggle to think of a costume drama, particularly a major one, in recent times that wasn’t based on an original novel. I suppose there was the recent Lilies (which I didn’t see), but the list must be short.
And speaking as someone who loved Andrew Davies’ original series, A Very Peculiar Practice, why doesn’t he write a few more original stories.