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The Literary Scene

Your Favourite Novels, Now in Theatres

By Natasha Tsakiris

This winter season, many literary classics will be released as film adaptations. While some of these novels have been deemed “unfilmable,” directors have taken these well-known stories and transformed them into onscreen gems. This award season, it’s a battle of the books on screen. They may all be big players in the literary world, but will these adapted versions become box-office gold? Read the books before you see the movie and see if they live up to the expectations!

Thought-Provoking Sci-Fi

We begin with the science fiction puzzle Cloud Atlas, based on a novel by David Mitchell, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. The plot centers on a series of stories where characters’ lives are intertwined as they cross paths in the past, present, and future. The film is a challenge to follow and understand but is nonetheless a breathtaking onscreen epic. The film was released in September and is already predicted to win Academy Awards in the visual effects category.

cloud atlas

The Adventurous Drama

Next is Ang Lee’s imaginative adaptation of Life of Pi, Canadian author Yann Martel’s coming-of-age tale. After being shipwrecked and lost at sea, 16-year-old Pi (Suraj Sharma) must survive onboard a lifeboat with a full-grown Bengal tiger. It is an incredible story with stunning visuals that blur the line between reality and fantasy.

The Russian Dark Horse

Up next is director Joe Wright’s theatrical telling of Leo Tolstoy’s love affair period piece Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley as the titular character. The film brings a new vision to the epic love story and follows one woman caught between two men, with scandal and betrayal following. Wright uses the stage to set his story, giving a whole new meaning to the magic of theatre.Anna Karenina

The Epic FantasyThe Hobbit

Continuing on the theme of magic, we return to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the Peter Jackson-directed prequel to the massively successful Lord of the Rings films. This will be the first in a three-part quest series, featuring everyone from a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), to the return of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Gollum (Andy Serkis).

The Classic Musical

After a long period in the development stages, a book that has “dreamed a dream” of making it to the big screen is finally seeing the light! Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a story of love, loss, rebellion, and freedom. This adaptation features an A-list cast including Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and many more recognizable stars. Directed by Tom Hooper, an Academy Award winner for The King’s Speech, the film is sure to have a big opening. Les Misérables has already been nominated in many categories for both the Golden Globes and SAG Awards.Les Misérables

The Original Hipsters

Lastly, we have the “Beat Generation” inspired adaption of the novel On The Road by Jack Kerouac. Directed by Walter Salles, the story follows Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a young writer whose life is redefined by the adventures he shares with his new friends. Based on Kerouac’s own travels across America with his friends, the book is a story of drugs, experimentation, and expression. The film captures some of the freewheeling magic of the novel and of the Beats and gives the audience a real sense of the time.On the Road


  • Nicole B

    Great article Natasha! So many of these are on my “to see” list right now. Especially The Hobbit and Les Mis. Both look pretty fantastic.

  • Meg

    Hey! Great list– I saw Cloud Atlas and it was a great adaptation. Really, really looking forward to seeing On the Road–one of my favourite books of all time, it will be interesting to see how Salles adapted it–I always thought it wasn’t very adaptable. We’ll see!

  • Mercedes

    Anna Karenina was amazing. I was really skeptical about how the whole conceit of it being set in a theater would work, but it worked really, really well. Easily the most beautiful film I have seen all year!

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