Monday, 12 October 2015

Book vs. Adaptation | Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Today I'm talking about another adaptation, and this time it's Neil Gaiman's Coraline - an ideal read or watch for this time of year!

Coraline was published in 2002 - if you want to read my thoughts on the book you can find my review here! - and was adapted into a stop motion film by Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, in 2009.

Unlike my previous two adaptation reviews, I watched the adaptation of Coraline before I read the book. I know. Naughty. Do I think that's been a problem? No, because I actually think the adaptation of Coraline is better than the book.

Oddly enough, this isn't the first time this has happened with an adaptation of one of Neil Gaiman's stories. I also enjoy the adaptation of Stardust more than the book - it's a bit more cheerful, and tiny bit more fun - but Neil Gaiman is still one of my favourite fantasy writers. I think the amount of his work that has been adapted is proof enough of how popular his stories are: Coraline and Stardust both have film adaptations, Neverwhere and Good Omens have both been adapted for radio, and American Gods is currently being adapted for television by the wonderful Bryan Fuller of Pushing Daisies and Hannibal fame.

Just because I prefer the film to the book doesn't mean the book is bad. Coraline is a thoroughly creepy little book - and without the book, there would be no film - but as I mentioned in my book review, Coraline feels very fairy tale-y, and not in the best way. We never learn much about the characters in our fairy tales, and while I was reading Coraline I felt as though there could have been more development. That's where Henry Selick's film steps in.

He took the story, and he just added more. Coraline has a little more character; to me she feels more like a real little girl in the adaptation than she does in the book. 

And the Other Mother's world is so much more detailed. The way in which she's taken Coraline's world and then warped it is wonderful, and it's easy to see how a creature like her could so easily creep into a child's psyche the way that she has done for many years. This film is worth watching just to admire the colours and the amount of detail that has gone into these people, from their hair down to their shoes.

I think the decision to create Coraline as a stop motion film, rather than an animation or a live action film, was the best decision that could have been made. Stop motion takes so much skill, and what I love most about stop motion is how grotesque people can be made to look. Coraline has blue hair, a huge head and a teensy little neck, if she were a real girl we'd be more than a little concerned, but as a stop motion character her appearance doesn't make us bat an eyelid.

cutie patootie
This comes in most handy, of course, for the villain, the Other Mother, brilliantly voiced by Teri Hatcher. She goes from looking almost eyedentical (hurr hurr hurr) to Coraline's real mother:

To this monstrosity:

brb having nightmares forever
I don't think the Other Mother could have been pulled off so well in either a live action or animated feature; there's something about stop motion films that adds that extra layer of oddity. They're real, but unreal. They're what Freud would call 'uncanny', and while I don't agree with a lot of Freud's theories there is something about the Uncanny that rings true.

In my opinion Coraline is one of those lucky books that's managed to land a fantastic adaptation, and whether you experience the story on page or onscreen, this time of year is the best time to introduce yourself to your Other Mother...

1 comment:

  1. I suck and I never read the actual book but I adore the movie. I'm loving these book vs. Adaptation posts you've been doing!