Recently, I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and was really excited to watch some of its adaptations. Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for awhile know I’m a huge advocate of watching the movie first! Normally that is the route I go because when you read the book first, like it, and expect the same great feeling to emerge from watching the film, you are usually let down. Thus, I see the film first, then read the book – so I can be delighted and surprised by differences in character or plot.
The Scarlet Letter is a classic though. I already knew the basic plot of the story. Hester Prynne is convicted of adultery and forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her dress at all times, thereby displaying to the world her sin for the remainder of her days. After reading the book, I rented the Demi Moore version of the very freely adapted Scarlet Letter.
Um…where did the rest of the book go??? Have any of you seen this movie?! The only thing in this adaptation that comes from the book is Hester’s affair with Reverend Dimmesdale, their subsequent child, and Hester having to wear the scarlet ‘A’ upon her dress.
The rest of the seedy plot points…
- Like Hester’s husband returning from war, apparently captured by natives and turned into one of them
- Leading to Hester’s husband taking on an assumed identity whereby he can terrorize Dimmesdale
- And ultimately stage Dimmesdale’s murder by “natives” then burn his deerskin clothes
- Meanwhile Hester barely shows any remorse or internal quarrel with her life actions
- And her daughter plays no role in the storyline other than a rare scene of a child running through the room
- Yet the movie watcher must sit through strange symbolic flash scenes of a scarlet colored bird flying into the house as Hester bathes seductively by candlelight
- And that scarlet letter is small and unobtrusive and looks like she pinned it on, no big deal!
And I repeat: Where did the book go???
Was the original content not racy enough for the film crew? I sincerely hope no students are renting this film version thinking they can write a school paper on the story from it. Yikes!
Nothing of Hester’s virility, her longevity, the creepy undoing of Reverend Dimmesdale through his mind, the increasing accusations and questions from her child as she grows up…
So then I tried a modern day version:
You know what, I thought this film was really funny! Olive is your average High School Invisible Girl, until she agrees to help a guy, who was getting bullied, by convincing the school that they slept together. You know the saying “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished?” Well, it spirals for Olive! Suddenly all the guys who are picked on, considered losers, etc. are asking Olive for help and she is left with the tragic repercussions on her character.
In defiance, Olive marches through the school with a scarlet letter ‘A’ on her new sexy wardrobe, and tries to make the best of things.
With humor like Mean Girls and a storyline like Saved!, this is a film I can handle! A fabulously modern twist on Hawthorne’s timeless classic. At least here, you’re rooting for the main character! And…no freaky imagery scenes!
What do you think? Ever been really disappointed by a film version of a book you like? How about really impressed? Name your best and worst adaptations.