Literature (2019 | Issue 2)

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From Bestseller to Big Screen

Books have always been a major source of cinematic inspiration. The Oscars even have a special category for films based on books! Some readers strongly feel that a film doesn’t do justice to a book, while others enjoy watching the characters come to life. What’s Up, Germany? brings you some German bestsellers that have found their way on the big screen.

Thomas Mann’s classic Buddenbrooks (1901) has been made into a film three times! The first adaptation, directed by Gerhard Lamprecht in 1923, was a silent version. The more recent one, Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (2008), came out in German and was the most expensive movie produced by Bavaria Film Studio since Das Boot in 1981!

Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues, 1929) was turned into an Academy-award winner under the able direction of Lewis Milestone a year after its publication. Made in English, this movie set the box-office on fire and is considered an epic today. It was the first film to win an Oscar for both Best Film and Best Director.

The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper, 1928) is Bertolt Brecht’s wildly successful play. Film-makers sat up and took note of it, resulting in a German musical by GW Pabst in 1931. More than eight decades later, Joachim Lang came out with Mackie Messer–Brechts Dreigroschenfilm. His film shows Brecht’s struggles as he tries to adapt his famous opera for the cinema. What you see is a film within a film.

Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum (Die Blechtrommel, 1959) caused much sensation both as a novel and as a movie. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff, it was the first German production to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980.

Another film that made its presence felt at the Oscars with six nominations was Das Boot. Written by Lothar-Günther Buchheim, this 1973 international bestseller was adapted by the German director Wolfgang Petersen in 1981.

Patrick Süskind’s historical fantasy novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Das Parfum, 1985), was rejected by several publishers before it went into print and became a major success. It has been translated into 49 languages! In 2006, Tom Tykwer (of Run Lola Run fame) turned it into a box-office hit. A crime TV series, loosely based on the book, can be watched on Netflix.

Based on Bernhard Schlink’s bestselling novel, The Reader (Der Vorleser, 1995), this movie starring Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Bruno Ganz and the German actor David Kross, is a romantic drama by Stephen Daldry. Winslet won an Oscar for her strong performance in this 2008 adaptation.

Known for her Inkheart trilogy (Tintenwelt–Trilogie, 2003–2008), author Cornelia Funke co-produced the fantasy film based on her first book, Inkheart (2008). Nintendo came out with a video game that was inspired by this movie!

Tschick (Why We Took the Car, 2010) is a coming-of-age tale by Wolfgang Herrndorf that has been published in more than 25 countries! This cult novel about two young misfits who steal a car and go on a road trip had film-maker Fatih Akin hooked! He made it into a film that does full justice to the book in 2016!