†††††††† When a film is based on a literary work, it generally seems to lose much of what made the original work so good. There are plenty of exceptions to this, however, like the Lord of the Rings films, directed by Peter Jackson. While numerous omissions had to be made from the source material, Jackson did an amazing job of adapting the books into a successful film trilogy. Another great film adaptation of a literary work is A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland in 1973. This film version of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play remains faithful to the source material and contains few cuts. While both films are vastly different in most respects, they showcase two excellent examples of how films can be adapted from literary works.
†††††††† One amazing aspect of both films is the accuracy of the settings. A Doll's House is filmed almost entirely inside houses, except for a short scene or two. This gives the watcher a sense of confinement, as is presented in the original play. Nora (Claire Bloom) and Torvald (Anthony Hopkins) share a rather large house; but, the way some rooms are shot, it feels smaller. The feeling of confinement is even more prevalent when Christine (Anna Massey) goes to see Krogstad (Denholm Elliott). Krogstad is poor, and he has a very small home that he shares with his two children. No matter where this film takes you, you get a feeling of confinement that Ibsen establishes in his original work. It really feels like being in a little doll house. The viewer might expect to turn a corner and see Barbie or Ken.
†††††††† The setting for The Lord of the Rings is wholly different from of A Doll's House, but it is no less effective and appears as Tolkien described it in the novels. A perfect example of this is Hobbiton, an area of the Shire that the Baggins family inhabits. Hobbiton does not make one feel confined like the setting of A Doll's House, but it makes one feel happy and cheerful as it does in the novel. Hobitton is a very open, green area that seems to lie in a part of Middle Earth that has yet to be spoiled by war. Every hobbit that the viewer sees is happy and enjoying whatever he or she seems to be doing. It makes the viewer want to smile, as the descriptions of it in the book do. Whether it is a house or a town of halflings, both directors do an amazing job of constructing settings that make the reader feel a particular emotion.
†††††††† Another major point of accuracy comes from how well characters translate to the screen. If a film maker or actor gets a character wrong, he or she will hear about it for the rest of their lives. A perfect example of accuracy in a character in A Doll's House is Torvald, played by Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is an excellent actor, and it shows in this role. Torvald can be a hard character to pull off because he needs to be somewhat hard yet also soft and caring. David Warner, who plays Torvald in Joseph Losey's 1973 film version, only portrays the hard, stony aspects. The viewer never questions the Hopkins Torvald's feelings for Nora, though. He comes across somewhat hard when working, but that goes away when he is with Nora and out of his office. Also, the viewer feels sorry for him at the end of the film when Nora leaves him. Sure, he treats her as a doll, but he does love her. He appears truly hurt at this, and Hopkins shows it. It almost makes the viewer want to tell Nora to turn around and go back to him. Hopkins does an excellent job bringing a faithfully presented Torvald to the screen. He makes the character his own but also keeps him the way it seems Ibsen intended.
†††††††† While the characters in the Lord of the Rings films are really different from those in A Doll's House, they are also excellent examples, like Hopkins' Torvald, of how to get a character right between literature and film. The one that sticks out the most is the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen. Gandalf is like Torvald in that he can be a very hard, but also very kind, character. The characteristic that stands out about Gandalf in the books is his constant tranquillity. McKellen does an excellent job getting this quality across. Whether he is Gandalf the White or Gandalf the Gray, whether chatting with a hobbit or an elf or slaying orcs, there is an ever-present serene feeling to him. This is mainly due to the smile that McKellen gives the character. He is almost always seen with this smile, which looks almost goofy at times, but makes the character feel as he does in the novels. Hopkins and McKellen are two of the older actors in the business, but there is a reason for that. They are two of the best, and it shows in the characters they play and the accuracy with which they portray them.
†††††††† The setting and major characters are important to film adaptations, but nothing more so than the overall feeling generated by the works. Both films have accomplished this feat incredibly well. While The Lord of the Rings may not be quite finished, the parts leading to the final chapter have accomplished this.
†††††††† A Doll's House is all about a feeling of confinement and watching Nora come to the realization that she has been little more than a doll to the men in her life. These two aspects are translated well onto the screen. The sense of confinement is ever-present. Watching Nora grow as she is being blackmailed by Krogstad is the real meat, though. Claire Bloom portrays Nora well. She starts out happy and making stupid little noises, and then she changes. She worries about Torvald's reputation, then herself, and she finally gathers the strength to leave. Bloom pulls off this change well, and it is incredibly effective. She keeps the character and emotion consistent with the original work.
†††††††† With the first two chapters of the Lord of the Rings films completed, Peter Jackson has nailed the various aspects of the books on film. The ever-present sense of doom is there as Frodo tries to accomplish his task. The emotions expressed by each and every character are there, too. Whether it is because Legolas and Gimli become the unlikely pair of best friends or Sam's sorrow at what the ring is doing to Frodo, Jackson also does an awesome job at designing the setting of Middle Earth using New Zealand landscapes.
†††††††† A Doll's House and The Lord of the Rings may be vastly different works in both literature and film, but they are two of the best translated between the page and the screen. Both of these should be used as two of the highest examples of how to translate literature into film.