When is the Film Better Than the Book? Bond Edition
Which is the better version of From Russia with Love? Novel or film?
I was struck with this question when I recently reread From Russia with Love (and having watched the film version a few months earlier).
To me, the film version of From Russia with Love is better than the novel.
Why? How can I make this claim?
The film is more complex. Spectre, the villains of the film, play the British and Russians against each other rather masterfully. While the British correctly read this as a trap (which they don’t in the novel), Kronsteen works things in such a way that Bond never guesses the true foe.
The scheme unravels (in both versions) only when Grant gives into his sins. In the novel, Grant has a psychological hatred for the British (which only comes out during his villainous breakdown), but, in the movie, it is Grant’s greed that gets the better of him.
I also think the film does a better job of setting up a conflict. Who is Bond struggling against in the novel? Who is the main antagonist? Is it the General, Klebb, or Grant?
In the film, it is clear that Grant is the main antagonist, and the conflict between the two equally matched agents.
But I have an issue with this, as well, because Rosa Klebb is relegated to a less prominent role. I would prefer to see Klebb get more characterization. (I really want to see a woman be the main antagonist without a man stealing their thunder- like in From Russia with Love or The World is Not Enough).
To be honest, I think the early Bond films are generally superior to the books. Maybe there was more passion. Maybe Fleming’s involvement improved the films (and removed some of the silly bits from the novels).
It is only when the silly bits begin to dominate the films that the novels reassert their dominance. Namely, Diamonds are Forever and Live and Let Die dominate, blow out of the water, their film “adaptations.”
What other films are better than their novels? I’ll get back to you on that.