I probably mentioned in an earlier post that I usually watch film adaptations after reading the books they are based off of. However, there are some books that were so graphic and intense that I’m too faint-hearted to watch them on screen. Maybe someday I will watch these films but as of now, these four books of were sufficient enough to stay forever lodged in my memory.
- The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden. This novel is narrated from the perspective of a Scottish doctor who is employed by Idi Amin, who in real life was the president of Uganda in the 1970s. I read this book in high school in world geography class because I wanted to learn more about Uganda’s political history during our unit on Africa. We had a list of movies we needed to see as part of our grade for the class, and I overheard a classmate ask my teacher if he could see The Last King of Scotland for his film grade (it wasn’t on the list because it was school district policy that the teacher couldn’t recommend any R-rated features). She approved but warned him to be prepared because “Idi Amin was a really nasty dictator”. Reading how the doctor, Nicholas, has to witness individuals endure incredibly brutal torture under Amin’s regime, and after seeing Forest Whitaker play Amin so accurately in the trailer, I decided that the book was enough to sit through. I love both Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy’s acting (Whitaker took home the Best Actor Award at the Oscars in 2007 for his depiction of Amin in the film) , but this is a movie I’ll have to sit out until I can officially muster the guts to stomach it.
- Schindler’s List (the Australian version is called Schindler’s Ark) by Thomas Keneally. A poignant novel based on the true account of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazis who saved 1,200 Jews from concentration camps during the Holocaust. Like all works about the senseless killing of millions of human beings, expect graphic scenes of torture, murder and abuse. The book was enough to keep me up at night and honestly I wish I finished it in the daytime because it was enough to bring me to tears. After reading it, I was too emotionally exhausted to think about seeing the film.
- Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. A black comedy that doesn’t adhere to the traditional linear narrative format, Welsh’s various characters share how they are either directly or indirectly influenced by heroin abuse and other forms of addiction. I know that black comedy is technically supposed to be funny, but weirdly enough I couldn’t remember laughing at any point during this book (except for the scene when one of the female characters, Kelly, gets back at a bunch of slimy dudes who harass her during her waitressing shift by putting gross stuff in their food). One scene that will never leave my memory is when Mark Renton, one of the main characters, goes to see a drug dealer who explains how he lost his leg from abusing heroin. I was already having a hard time dealing with the male characters’ poor treatment of women and their abuse of heroin, but this particular scene had me breaking down in tears so badly I didn’t think I would ever get to finish the book. Reading this one scene was worse than any anti-drug PSA I ever saw, and believe me, I’ve seen some pretty intense ones. Sounds melodramatic, I know but the novel had an impact on me and I can’t ever forget it, so I don’t think I will be able to handle the movie that well. I am now in my long hiatus from Irvine Welsh novels, but I want to read more of them because he’s a really good writer. Next time I read one of his works I will read it during the day time when I can better process it.
- Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr. I know trailers don’t always say a lot about a film, but the trailer for the movie adaptation of this novel was haunting. Even the poster gives me chills, with that big blue eye staring out at you like those of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. But that’s the point. Like Trainspotting, this novel scared me out of my wits because of how its characters lives spiral out of control when they abuse heroin. It’s supposed to scare readers and raise awareness of how abusing these drugs can make people feel a false sense of security with themselves, when in reality they miss out on life because they are dealing with the severe psychological, physical and emotional effects of heroin (and the effects of withdrawal). I read a synopsis of the film adaptation because I knew I’d be too chicken to actually sit down and watch it, although it would have probably scared everyone if they had shown it as part of our health class’ unit on drugs and alcohol. Like a lot of kids, I grew up with D.A.R.E. programs, drug-free pledges and D.A.R.E. bracelets in school, but Hubert Selby’s work is essentially the whole D.A.R.E. program in just 200-300 pages. Phenomenal book; however, until I can manage to get my stomach muscles in order, I remain too shooketh to see Darren Aronofsky’s film .
Got any more film adaptations to add to the list? Let me know in the comments.