Catherine Cold Birdie adapts from book to movie the right way

It’s hard to find anything in popular culture that most people agree on, but at least there’s one general statement about media arguments rarely begin: it’s widely agreed that a book is usually better than a movie or show adapted from it, regardless. about his loyalty. Or technical adaptation may be. What no one seems to agree on is whether it is better for an adaptation to follow the book faithfully or chart its own course. However, some of the on-screen interpretations of the book seem universally despised for what it has changed. Take, for example, the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuadewhich gives the novel a horribly modern update, transforming Anne Elliot from a sad, sane woman into a cynical, cynical woman.

So for fans of Karen Cushman’s Newbery Honor Award winning historical novel Catherine, her name is BirdieIt might seem odd that writer and director Lena Dunham changed the book’s on-screen ending in favor of something more modern. It might be strange to say that the changed ending improves the plot this time around. Sometimes the books aren’t cinematic enough to play well on screen, and neither are Dunham and her team Understood that, so they updated Cushman’s story to make it more coherent and compelling as a movie. with Game of thrones“Bella Ramsey leads the team, Catherine is called Birdie It is a rare book-to-movie adaptation that makes some huge changes for the better.

[Ed. note: This post contains ending spoilers for the book version of Catherine Called Birdy, and discusses general changes to the plot for the film version.]

Photo: Alex Bailey/Prime Video

Cushman’s 1994 novel is very bleak. Catherine, her name is Birdie It is the medieval memoir of 14-year-old Catherine, the only daughter of an English lord. The book begins as just an account of her days, until her father decides to marry her off. She then spends her time evading suitors, before becoming betrothed to a wealthy man much older than her – old enough to have adult children. She runs away from home in search of sanctuary with her newly married uncle, but eventually accepts her fate, determined to never lose her sense of self, even during her marriage. Fortunately for her, her would-be suitor dies in an accident, and Catherine ends up betrothed to his most suitable son for his age instead. For the time period, it counts as a win!

for young readers, Catherine, her name is Birdie It’s like Dear America or American Girl books – yes, there is a catchy story, but alsoThe book is full of details about a specific time period, and he might start to fascinate with history. Catherine’s diary entries display not only her brave, strong-willed voice and sense of humor, but also the daily life of a medieval noblewoman, from boring chores to more exciting festivals.

The ordinary aspects of Catherine’s life in the book are fascinating, especially for the target audience of middle-grade readers, who may not have had a view of real history from this time period. When Catherine talks about spinning cloth, keeping birds, attending village ceremonies, or offering thoughts on how various saints were martyred, it’s all part of her daily life. But for modern readers, it’s a peek into a way of life long gone and curiously unfamiliar.

a young girl in medieval clothing raises a sword over her head;  Next to her is a blond man smiling and looking at her fondly

Photo: Alex Bailey/Prime Video

The problem is that while the daily chores of a 14-year-old in medieval times make for an interesting read, they don’t make for a particularly interesting movie. Much of the book’s magic comes from Katherine’s charismatic voice, and while the film’s voiceover captures some of it, the film cannot tell a story via voiceover alone. Needs a more realistic clear line. So Dunham’s script makes Catherine’s impending engagement a more central plot point earlier.

The biggest change in the film is that Catherine’s family is much more sympathetic than their counterparts in the book, especially since the film as a medium comes out naturally with a limited first-person perspective.

It’s a tactic adopted by Netflix’s adaptation of Shadow and bonesa full episode left behind by protagonist Alina to focus on her best friend, tracker Mal (Archie Rhino, who happens to play Catherine’s brother Friar Edward in Catherine is called Birdie). One of the biggest criticisms of Mal in the books is that he is jealous and controlling, but a lot of that comes from the first person perspective of the book, which is filtered through Alina and her insecurities. But in the show, Mal’s side of the story materializes, and some of his dialogues and actions are read as less aggressive than Alina imagined. He becomes a more compelling character, and their relationship turns what seems like a one-sided crush into a beautiful mutual tension.

in Catherine is called BirdieMany of Catherine’s family actions are still framed by her narrative and point of view. But this also offers some nice irony, because when Catherine says one thing, the audience can see what her parents, siblings, and other people in her life are actually doing. In particular, her father, Lord Rollo (the wonderful Andrew Scott), becomes less of a voracious, lazy wasteful of his family’s money and treats them as objects, and more of a complex character who loves his family and wants what’s best for them, despite his faults in overspending and mismanaging their property.

A man wearing a chain mail snood holds a teenage girl

Photo: Alex Bailey/Prime Video

Catherine cannot see the conversation he had with his advisor about her marriage, because she only eavesdrops through the door. But the audience can, and they can see Rollo’s agonizing face realizing that the only solution to the family’s financial difficulties is to arrange a marriage for his only daughter. Dunham has chosen to make Catherine’s family more complicated for viewers, but that means that the original ending for them that is perfectly fine with her impending upcoming marriage will not be satisfactory, and will once again move them in an unsympathetic direction. So that also changes. While the film’s ending is certainly more modern than expected in the Middle Ages, it also feels more satisfying from a narrative point of view. Catherine’s fate was not left to chance, and her family’s involvement seems plausible, given how Dunham connected him in their past actions.

For book owners, it may be strange to hear that the changing ending actually improves the story. But in some cases, changing the book’s themes or clarifying ambiguities in it leads to something different that still maintains the overall feel of the book, but can stand on its own. The A series of unfortunate events The TV series, for example, answered a question in the series finale that author Daniel Handler had left open for years. While Handler has continued to build the Snicketverse with sub-elements and guidebooks, the TV series is more limited, and the closure is more satisfying than intentional ambiguity.

Dunham chose a path similar to Catherine is called Birdie. It’s not an honest adaptation of the book, but the adaptation is best for an audience who discovers this story on screen. Catherine is called Birdie The film tells a tighter story than the cheerful diary entries tell in the book, and needs a more definitive conclusion than a journal simply running out of pages. It’s an updated version of the story, but not updated out of cowardice due to a tragic ending, or a misplaced “How are you guys kidding” attempt to appeal to young people through “excited” or “different”. Instead, the changes come from a desire to maximize the best parts of the book. Catherine’s sharp narration and insight into her daily life in the Middle Ages, along with a more narratively coherent epilogue, makes the film stronger, and allows Dunham to find her own path and audience.

Catherine is called Birdie It will be shown in theaters now, and will air on Prime Video starting October 7.

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